Get your garden winter ready

During the colder months our native wildlife may need a helping hand. The good news is that there are plenty of things we can do to provide a haven for animals that may be in search of extra food or a safe place to settle, and promote biodiversity.
Image of great tit on branch

Gardening for wildlife

Feeding birds

Garden birds benefit from year-round feeding but in the winter food with a higher fat content will provide an extra boost. Offer birds a mixed diet to provide a good balance and help support a wide variety of species:

  • Place fat blocks in wire cages. Balls in plastic netting are not recommended as woodpeckers can get their tongues caught.
  • Finely chop bacon rind and grate cheese for small birds such as wrens.
  • Sparrows, finches and nuthatches are specially adapted to prising the seeds out of sunflower heads.
  • Starlings are known to enjoy peanut cake while finches will tuck into berry cakes.
  • Thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit too, so scatter well-ripened apples and raisins or leave windfall fruits on the ground for them.
  • Robins and dunnocks feed from the ground so sprinkle broken fat balls away from predators.
  • Leave out fresh water for all birds, especially when things have frozen over, so they can carry on drinking when it’s cold

Planting trees, such as rowans that offer late-ripening berries, can also provide huge benefits as well as planting a good mix of flowers and shrubs that flower at different times in the year to help pollinating insects and the birds that feed on them.


Like all creatures, hedgehogs are part of the ecosystem and have a crucial part to play but over the past two decades, their numbers have dwindled significantly, partly due to habitat loss, so they need our help:

  • Hedgehogs can travel up to 1-2kms every night when active, so help them travel safely through your garden by creating a hedgehog hole or ‘highway’ in your garden fence or wall. A gap 13cm x 13cm is large enough to give these prickly creatures space to roam and forage.
  • As winter arrives, hedgehogs will be looking for a safe place to hibernate. Leaving piles of leaves in a quiet area in your garden, protected from the elements, can provide a comfortable nest and provide a haven for insects.
  • Check garden bonfires for any hibernating animal or move the pile to a fresh spot before lighting and make any ponds safe for small creatures by creating exit ramps.

Caring for insects and other wildlife

  • Take care when turning over compost bins so as not to disturb or hurt hedgehogs, toads and frogs.
  • Make a bug hotel for solitary bees and other insects
  • Provide a shallow dish of water at ground level for birds and other visiting wildlife.
  • While many insects stay active in winter some will go into a state of torpor and seek shelter in trees, under logs and in leaf litter so resist clearing up the garden. Butterflies may hibernate in garden sheds and outhouses.

Tree planting

Trees provide many benefits. Not only do they help clean the air we breathe, absorb harmful pollutants and reduce the risk of flooding by slowing down the absorption of water into the soil, but they also act as a carbon sink, helping reduce the damaging effects of climate change.

Not only that, a single tree can be home to hundreds of species of insects, fungi, moss, mammals and plants.

The Royal Horticulture Society recommends that the best time to plant is during the winter months (October to April), avoiding waterlogged or frozen soil.

To reach its 2050 net-zero carbon target, the UK needs millions trees to be planted. To support this ambition, the Woodland Trust offers free trees to schools and groups looking to plant in their local community.