October seems a quiet time for wildlife in the garden, but it needs your help to thrive. 

What garden wildlife need in autumn and winter

Garden wildlife need many things in autumn and winter. They include:

  • food - especially from natural sources
  • undisturbed places to hibernate
  • places for caterpillars to overwinter as pupae before they transform into butterflies and moths next year
  • healthy soil that provides both food and shelter. According to the Soil Association, soils are home to a quarter of Earth’s species
  • water.

Top tips for helping garden wildlife through the winter

There are a few things you can do to help garden wildlife through winter. You can:

  • grow late-flowering plants for pollen and nectar
  • allow ivy to bloom. Its flowers and berries feed insects and birds
  • leave your compost heaps until late spring as many creatures overwinter in them
  • increase the wildlife in your soil by adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure, peat-free compost or your own garden compost (if already extracted)
  • leave leaf litter on the ground to enrich the soil, provide habitat for mini-beasts and shelter for the winter. If you tidy up fallen leaves, try putting a heap under a hedge where hedgehogs or other creatures may hibernate. Leaves can also be composted and used to enrich the soil the following year
  • leave old stems of perennial plants to provide winter shelter for mini-beasts and the seeds as food for birds. They are also easier to tidy away in the spring when they have dried out
  • plant trees and shrubs – in the long term they provide shelter and food, especially if they have flowers, fruit or nuts.

October plants

  • Plant Crocuses for early colour, pollen and nectar next year
  • Michaelmas Daisies love a sunny spot. They are a magnet for bees and butterflies
  • Japanese Anemones 
  • Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ often flowers until the first frost.

Sources: Gardening for a Wilder Kent / Soil Association ‘Save our Soil’British Hedgehog Preservation Society / Royal Horticultural Society’s Plants for Pollinators.

A butterfly sits on a flower.