What a Windfall

As summer draws to a close and autumn colours adorn the landscape, our garden wildlife enter a period of plenty and planning.
Fieldfare on an autumn tree with red berries
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As summer draws to a close and autumn colours adorn the landscape, our garden wildlife enter a period of plenty and planning.

The flowering season is over and as herbaceous plants retreat back underground for winter, so goes the food that has powered our brightly coloured butterflies and bees all summer long. Survival tactics differ but the result is the same, empty air where once a kaleidoscope of colour and sound existed.

The majority of our trees too will be preparing to sleep, drawing sap from their leaves, closing down photosynthesis creating the spectacular autumn palette of reds, yellows and browns that ultimately end up on our lawns. The first signs of the cooler air moving in can clearly be seen as one side of a tree quickly changes from green to yellow and then red, like a giant traffic light drawing the season to a stop.

Our jobs in the garden will typically be that of tidying up, carrying out repairs and maintenance and providing protection against the worst that winter can throw at us and our wildlife will be similarly busy. So it’s worth pausing before embarking on any task, to consider the countless creatures we share our space with and planning our work around their needs.

Butterflies may already have taken refuge in our garages, along with fertile queen bees and these should be left undisturbed. Frogs will retreat to the bottom of the pond and slow their metabolism to match the cooling water. Caterpillars and endless mini beasts will wriggle, crawl and fly to find every nook of tree bark, hole in the ground and pile of twigs and leaves in which to hide. Worms will be drawing fallen leaves underground and squirrels will be burying nuts to create larders for leaner times ahead. Birds will be picking at all the berries and fruit, while hedgehogs will be making nests and eating everything they can find to pack on the pounds before the cold drives them home.

Our human tendency to organise and clean can often be at odds with our wildlife’s requirements, so conceivably it’s time to do less. Consider leaving those leaves on the lawn. Maybe don’t deadhead the dahlias and perhaps put off the pruning. Allow wildlife to occupy and use all these resources, while we tip-toe around with the lightest of touches so as not to disturb them.

This autumn, enjoy your free time in the garden and feel good about all the benefits the windfall offers; food, protection and habitats for your wildlife.

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