Taking care of our garden helpers

Fall has undeniably arrived with the first frost of the season that gave the leaves stupendous colors, caused many flowers to wilt, a season that makes us huddle around a warm fire. This is also a time to remember the many little creatures that were such a big help during the growing season; the spiders, ladybugs, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, etc.

For many of them winter can mean certain death, but with just a little care we can make the difference between these helpers seeing another season or not. What can we do? With very little time and at almost no cost we can provide winter shelters.

Bugs, bees, ladybugs and such can find shelter from the worst cold in flower pots that are stuffed with wooden sticks, straw, sawdust, even small stones can be used. You can simply turn the flower pots on their side and leave them in a protected spot in the garden, or you can hang them from branches with rope wrapped around a wooden stick that you insert into the drainage hole of the pot.

This year I also used a branch from an old apple tree that broke off because it had one too many holes made by woodpeckers. Same procedure, stuff any cavity with straw, wood shavings, stones, or such, and leave it on the ground.

Hedgehogs are some of my favorite helpers in the summer. Did you know that they feast on slugs? They also like to eat cat food, so if you want to make sure they get a good start into the winter you might want to consider that and leave a bowl out for them once in a while. Of course you might also find some very well fed cats in your neighborhood ;)

Providing a winter home for your hedgehogs might involve not much more than not being a neatnik in the garden. Making sure there are plenty of leaves left after the fall cleanup, and not removing every branch is a great way to encourage these prickly friends to stay around for a while. I have seen plans for wooden hedgehog houses but personally I refuse to go that far. Stack some dead wood in such a way that there is room inside to build a snug little home, leave piles of leaves in the area, and a hedgehog family might find it attractive enough to spend the cold months in your garden.

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