As spring and summer unfold, many of us enjoy time in our garden and gardens can be a haven for wildlife as well as for people. Hedgehogs are often very dependent on networks of gardens in villages and towns in Norfolk and a little hedgehog-friendly gardening goes a long way to helping this vulnerable species.
Whatever the size of your garden, there is always something you can do for hedgehogs – here’s a few handy tips:
Water – Spells of dry weather can be disastrous for wildlife and the simplest way to help is to keep a shallow dish or bowl of water in your garden for hedgehogs and other species to have a drink.
If you have space for a pond, however small, you will find it a magnet for wildlife, but make sure hedgehogs can climb out by having a ramp or sloping sides.
Fences – No single garden is large enough for a hedgehog population or can offer everything they need. Your garden is part of a local network of gardens and habitats hedgehogs use, so make sure they can get through fences or walls easily. A simple hole the size of a CD will do the job.
Best of all – see if you can join other local gardeners to make sure hedgehogs have lots of connecting gardens and that everyone has a little of the habitat they need. For more information, check out https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/.
Log piles, leaves and hedgehog homes – Hedgehogs need places to sleep in the day, to nest with their young and to make into a cosy bed for hibernation. Hedgehog homes can be bought in garden centres or on line and need a quiet, sheltered corner, perhaps in bushes or under a hedge. A cheaper, rustic version is a pile of logs that hedgehogs can burrow under – this has the advantage of being a wonderful home for insects too, some of which will end up as dinner for the hedgehog! Replenish the logs as they rot over the years.
Piles of dry leaves for bedding are also useful and if you have piled up leaves for burning or composting, take care! Hedgehogs might hide in them (or in your garden compost heap), so check before you move them, burn them or turn with a garden fork.
Wild flowers and wild corners – Wild flowers make a beautiful addition to any garden and will encourage insects and birds. Wild flowers such as foxgloves look lovely in flowerbeds, but a small area of meadow or even a patch of lawn left a little longer with buttercups and daisies, is even better. You will need to cut the meadow when the flowers start to die back and then rake the cuttings up.
Many gardeners have a spring and autumn tidy up – this can remove nesting or hibernation sites for hedgehogs and reduces the amount of insects in the garden, as many species need a place to hibernate. Pick a corner of your garden and leave it as a quiet place for wildlife.
Careful with the strimmer! – Hedgehogs will not run away from the sound of a mower or strimmer – check before you strim or mow tall grass to avoid causing horrific injuries or death. Single hedgehogs can be moved (wearing gloves!), but moving a hedgehog family is more complicated and they should be left undisturbed.
Avoid netting and clear up litter – Hedgehogs are prone to becoming tangled or stuck in litter – polystyrene cups, plastic and elastic bands are all common offenders. If you need to net birds off fruit, vegetables or lawn seed, use a rigid structure or a thick cordage and keep it taut. Sports and garden netting should be tied up or stored inside when not in use.
Helen Baczkowska is a Conservation Officer at NWT.
[Header image by Dave Kilbey]