Spring is a wonderful, magical time of year. Green shoots suddenly spring from bare earth. Buds appear on barren trees. The quiet air is quickly filled with the trilling of birds, and it all appears to come from nowhere.
In truth, nature was just hiding out of sight, waiting for the cold winter months to pass, and now it’s waking up.
But plants, animals and insects still need your help. Changes in climate and weather patterns mean that animals are waking up at different times than they used to, so insects might emerge before the plants they need to feed on, or birds before the insects that make up their food supply.
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do.
The even better news is that a lot of these things you can do at home, without going out, and by using things you have about the house. How brilliant is that! These all make great family activities that will pass the time, get people crafting or outside working together, and give everyone something positive to focus on.
1. Keep topping up your bird feeder
Although plants and insects are starting to appear again, many birds could still use a helping hand with food.
Make sure your bird feeder is topped up with a variety of food. You might even want to set up different bird feeders with food that suits different birds, since some like different things to each other!
You don’t even need to buy a bird feeder if you don’t already, since they are also easy to make yourself from things you probably have at home. Bird feeders are also great if you don’t have a garden; hang them on your balcony, outside your window, put some bird seed on your windowsill, then grab a cuppa and enjoy a visit from some beautiful feathery friends.
2. Make sure your pond is frog-friendly
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, and it’s got a pond in it, now could be a good time to make sure it’s a nice, safe spot for frogs.
First off, make sure your pond has the following;
- A nice shallow area with plenty of native pond plants so the frogs can sit in this area, and the plants will give them shelter from the sun and help hide them from predators.
- A deeper area, around 60cm deep, so frogs can hibernate in this over the winter.
- Some sloping sides, so frogs are able to get out of the water easily.
- Soil, plants or vegetation right to the edge of the pond, not paving slabs all the way around. When it’s hot, frogs can stick to these slabs when they jump out of the pond and it can be fatal for them.
If you don’t already have plants in your pond, then the excellent charity Froglife suggests a mixture of submerged plants, which help oxygenate the water, and plants that sprout out of the water. Some examples are curled pondweed and the beautiful yellow flag iris.
3. Give hedgehogs a highway
We love our snuffling, shuffling little hedgehogs, and they certainly need our help. Hedgehogs like to roam about a lot at night, when they’re active, and the easier and safer it is for them to do so, the easier they’ll be able to find food and shelter.
One way to do this is to make sure hedgehogs can get into and out of your garden safely. This doesn’t need to be big; just a gap 13cm by 13cm in a fence is enough, according to the Woodland Trust. This can be a hole in the fence or a little tunnel scooped underneath it that will let them get about. If you can, do it on all sides of your garden so our spiny visitors can get about as much as they like.
Another way to help them is to provide places where they can rest during the day. Patches of garden left wild, piles of leaves and branches, and log piles are perfect.
The other advantage of all of these things is that they also encourage the insects and invertebrates like worms that hedgehogs eat.
In fact, with a little bit of work, you can turn your garden into a 5-star hedgehog hotel!
Although don’t forget that hedgehogs CAN’T eat milk, as they’re allergic to the lactose. Give them special hedgehog food, cat biscuits or meat-based cat or dog food instead.
- The Woodland Trust: What do hedgehogs eat?
- Hedgehog Street: Helpful garden features
- How to give hedgehogs a helping hand
4. Plant plenty of wildlife-friendly flowers and plants
A garden full of flowers and humming with insects, butterflies and bees flitting from flower to flower, birds singing above and creepy crawlies wriggling below. That sounds like a wonderful idea to make a reality, right?
And creating it is pretty easy too.
There are loads of wildflower and plant seed mixes that can be ordered online and delivered safely to your door. You can then plant them straight out into your garden, though make sure you’ve prepared where you’re going to plant them first to get the best growth.
To do this, clear the area you want to plant of debris and weeds, turn the soil over by digging into it with a fork or spade and loosening it up. If you’ve got some compost, you could dig that into the soil. Then plant the seeds according to the instructions on the packet, cover with soil, water well then wait and watch.
We think there’s something really soothing about watching out for the first green shoots poking through the soil, then watching at the plants grow and eventually flower.
- Plantlife: How to grow a wildflower meadow
- The Eden Project: How to create a wildflower meadow in your garden
5. Set up a bird box
You can give birds that are looking for somewhere to nest and lay eggs a safe place by popping up a bird box.
You can buy one online and have it delivered, or the Wildlife Trusts have instructions and a pattern for making your own, which would be a great weekend activity.
- Wildlife Trusts: How to build a nesting box for birds
- National Trust: How to make your own bird box
- RSPB: Family wild challenge – build a bird box
You’ll need some wood, hammer, nails, a saw, a drill etc and this activity DEFINITELY needs adult help, but the results will be worth the effort.
Pop it up somewhere safe, but ideally where you can keep an eye on it from inside. Then, every day you can spend a bit of time watching to see if any birds have made it their home. If they have, then you’ll be able to follow as the birds next, the chicks hatch and learn to fly over the coming months.
6. Build a bug hotel
Insects, invertebrates, bugs, creepy crawlies – whatever you call them, they’re a very important part of the ecosystem. They’re food for other animals such as frogs, hedgehogs and birds, they themselves keep levels of certain pests low, they help pollinate our plants and aerate the soil to keep it healthy.
The more bugs in your garden, the healthier it will be, so why not make a bug hotel (or two!) to encourage them along. It’s super simple, and again makes a great family activity.
The idea is to make a place with lots of different hidey holes where insects and bugs of all shapes and sizes can live, so you’ll need a few different things to make it. This could include;
- Bits of wood
- Pine cones
- Terracotta plant pots
- Bricks with holes in
- And pretty much any other type of natural material you can find!
Build your bug hotel in your garden, your balcony or if you’ve got a flat roof it can even go up there! You’ll get different types of insects depending on where you put it, but you’ll still be helping wildlife.
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