Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
As the garden starts its slow decent into autumn the hues, and colour balance within the borders begin to take on richer, redder and rustic golden tones. It’s the time to savour the last seasonal efforts of the plants to complete their yearly cycle before they drift into a gradual decline with the onset of autumn.
It’s not just the plants that are preparing for the winter slumber. Creatures that hibernate are also preparing for their long sleep, making a den and feeding themselves up for the cold months ahead. Hedgehogs in particular are readying themselves for the winter. If you know you have these delightful creatures in your garden then put out some special hedgehog food to help them fatten up, or a tray of meat based cat food. They will repay you in spring when they feast on the slugs and snails preparing to munch on the fresh spring shoots of your plants.
The birds too need fresh water and plenty of high quality food to see them through the next few months.
Think about the species of birds that visit your garden and choose a feed tailored to their needs to ensure they get the best possible diet. Again, garden birds play a major part in garden pest control
 Start to tidy the borders cutting back dead and dying growth from plants that are beginning to die back. Be careful to leave some flower and seed heads for the birds for winter food. Some will also look fantastic framed in frost when winter arrives. Cut back soft and sappy growth that has collapsed, died and withered.
 Leave a few piles of leaves, sticks or logs for the wildlife. Beetles and other beneficial insects can shelter in the leaves and over winter protected from the weather.
 Start to consider how to fill the borders next year. Autumn is the perfect time for planting, especially bulbs, trees and shrubs. Choose plants that provide good nesting sites for birds and a source of winter berries and don’t forget the bees. Plants such as willow, alder and hazel have early pollen that provides essential protein for feeding bee larvae in spring.
 Before lighting bonfires look out for hibernating hedgehogs. Move the materials a few feet to one side to be safe and if you do find one try to think of all the slugs he will eat in the spring before you evict him, particularly later in the month.
 Many animals will appreciate a small log pile or even just some large stones on uneven ground as a hibernation site for the winter. Slug predators such as toads, frogs and ground beetles are the most likely creatures to benefit.
 Blackberries and other soft-fruit in your garden will be valued by blackbirds and robins amongst others, as well as the redwings and fieldfares, also called “winter thrushes”, which usually arrive from Scandinavia and Russia by the middle of the month. Fieldfares and mistle thrushes may guard a particularly good plant against all comers as an investment for the winter.