Are you a ‘tidy it to within an inch of its life and then I won’t have to think about it again until spring’, or a ‘leave it completely alone and never venture into it except to walk down the path to the car’ type of person when it comes to your garden in the winter? Hopefully most of us are somewhere in between, doing a bit for wildlife and storing up our rewards as gardeners for next season too. There’s always a little more we can do though. We all know that our garden creatures need shelter and food during the cold months, but good wildlife gardens don’t need to be completely messy, overgrown wildernesses; the key is sensitive management. This is what we try to put into practice at RSPB Flatford Wildlife Garden, and doing the same in your garden will be a boon to all the wild creatures that live there.

To help you along, here is a handful of simple things you can do – or not do – to help turn your garden into a wildlife rich habitat this winter. For more inspiration and practical ways you can give nature a home in your garden visit


Photo credit: Andy Hay


Leave it

Fallen leaves are valuable in the garden. They can provide an insulating layer on borders and decompose to improve the structure of the soil beneath them, but don’t leave too thick and heavy a wet blanket of them over your bee-friendly perennials, encouraging rot. Gently rake off the surplus and heap them in a pile in a corner somewhere. A frog or two might overwinter among them and pay you back next year by helping to control the slug population.

Photo credit: Ben Andrew


Cut it out

Other helpers in your garden, like aphid-eating insects, will be more likely to get safely through the winter if you’ve left them some hollow plant stems to shelter inside. It’s a real treat to watch a red stream of ladybirds emerging from all sorts of hidey holes in the garden on the warmer days of spring. Even better when you know that they will be on the look-out for their first aphid meal! The seven-spot ladybird can eat 5000 aphids during its lifetime, so it’s definitely worth looking after them in the winter.

Photo credit: Jodie Randall


Pile it up

If you didn’t get round to putting together a log pile during the fleeting autumn, it can still be done and will start to quietly decompose ready to support next season’s beetles, more of the gardeners’ friends. You could even incorporate it into a shady flower border and surround it with native variety yellow primroses and Pulmonaria (lungwort) – both great for early bees and a joy to see opening in the spring. Pulmonaria, in particular, is a real favourite of the bee that wins the prize for the best name: the hairy footed flower bee, a solitary bee, even though it looks like a bumblebee, which is usually around from early spring until late June.

Photo credit: David Tipling


Clear out

If one of your winter jobs is to clear out the shed, be careful not to disturb overwintering peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies which like to hide away in corners. Similarly, toads and newts sometimes choose to overwinter in greenhouses or under pots, so keep an eye out for them too and try to leave them in peace. Bird nest boxes are often used as roosting sites on cold winter nights, so it’s important to clear out any remaining nesting material that might be harbouring parasites.

Photo credit: Eleanor Bentall


The garden might look like it’s sleeping now, but rest assured that its heart is still beating.

For more related articles follow the links below:

List of activities to follow in order to give nature home in your garden could be found here:

Flatford Wildlife Garden – information about events, star species, seasonal highlights, facilities, accessibility and photos could be found here:

How to build a leaf- mould cage? For 6 easy steps to follow, click here.

How to build a log pile in your garden? For 7 easy steps to follow, click here.

How to construct a nest box? For 7 easy steps to follow, click here.

To see our range of nest boxes and other products for your garden, visit our online shop:

A list of the available RSPB member packages could be found here: