April is a busy time in the garden – both for wildlife and for us, as we respond to the change in season. With this in mind, our friends at Vine House Farm offer some tips and advice on what’s important for garden wildlife over the next couple of months.
As well as providing food and water for birds, in the early spring there’s another important consideration: nesting material. This is especially important in more urban areas, as natural materials such as dry grass and sheep’s wool, isn’t readily available for birds to collect. So the simple solution is to provide the perfect nesting wool which will be readily taken by most species of garden bird.
This time of year sees the biggest shortage in natural food for the birds which visit our gardens – most of which are of course species of woodland birds. This shortage is because last season’s fruit, nuts and seeds have largely all been eaten, but it’s still too early in the season for many species of invertebrate to have emerged or to have bred and therefore be available for birds to eat. This means that putting out food such as sunflower hearts and suet products is more important than ever.
With the somewhat extreme fluctuations in temperature we’ve experienced this winter across the country – and notably the record-breaking warm weather at the end of February – chances are that hedgehogs will have been in an out of hibernation several times. But when they emerge in March or into April, this would normally be for the last time for the season – and they’ll be hungry when this happens. So have this special hedgehog food ready for them, and of course a shallow dish of clean water.
The key time to start providing live mealworms for garden birds is late April and early May. However, some species that typically breed earlier and will benefit from a supply of this energy and moisture-rich food. The blackbird is the best example, with females often sitting on eggs by early to mid-March, and fledglings appearing on lawns waiting to be fed anytime in April. Interestingly, blackbirds tend to start nesting around two weeks earlier in gardens compared to woodland – which is likely to be a consequence of better food supply. So if you see signs of blackbirds nesting in your garden, or indeed robins which are also early breeders, then give them a helping hand by providing live mealworms to feed to their young in the nest and the fledglings shortly after.
If you haven’t fed live mealworms to the birds in your garden before and have questions about doing so, then have a read here for everything you need to know.
Giving the lawn mower a rest in spring and leaving a wild spot to grow in your garden benefits bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Whether it's a flowerpot, flowerbed, wild patch in your lawn, or entire meadow, planting wildflowers provides vital resources to support a wide range of insects that couldn't survive in urban areas otherwise. You can simply let an area of grass grow long or create a wildflower area from scratch, whatever you do, wildlife will love it! Click here for more tips on growing a wild patch.
Photo: Mark Hamblin/2020VISION