A few weeks ago we covered the importance of gardening to help fight climate change. Gardens are the living lungs of our cities, helping offset the harmful effects of global warming. But they're also absolutely crucial to the survival of animals that have been migrating to the cities in search of food.
Hedgehogs are especially dependent on our gardens for sustenance, and with their numbers steadily declining, they could really do with our help*.
Hedgehogs breed in May and June, and young hedgehogs are out and about in people's gardens from late summer onwards, with as many as 10 different hedgehogs visiting the same garden in the space of just a few nights. There are several things to consider to make their visits to your garden safe and successful.
1. Ensure hedgehog safety
The biggest hazard to hedgehogs in our gardens is deep water features such as ponds. Although hedgehogs like swimming, if they are startled and fall into water, they can easily drown. Cover drain holes and place bricks or stones in your pond to make sure there's something for them to hold onto.
Next, be extra careful when trimming your lawn or hedge, to make sure there isn't a hedgehog snoozing in there somewhere. Likewise, check your compost heap before turning it with a rake.
2. What do hedgehogs eat?
Hedgehogs love dog and cat food, so leave some out for them in a quiet, shaded spot in the garden. Try to leave food out before dusk (which is when hedgehogs like to eat), so that they're full overnight.
Leave clean water out in shallow, heavy dishes. Don't give them milk as it'll give them a stomach upset.
3. Know how to care for a sick or injured hedgehog
If you find a hedgehog in your garden you believe to be ill or injured, ring your local animal rescue group, vet, wildlife rehabilitator or RSPCA. Depending on what they tell you to do, you'll either be taking the animal to them, or keeping it safe before they arrive.
Using garden gloves, place the hedgehog carefully in a cardboard box with tall sides, with a towel and some scrunched up paper inside it, so that the hedgehog can hide. If you think the hedgehog is very cold, you can provide a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
4. Keep an overgrown corner for hedgehogs
Even if you prefer a very tidy, manicured garden, keeping an overgrown corner will provide a haven for hedgehogs to rest and hunt for insects. In general, the more natural your planting scheme, the more animals it will attract. Likewise, don't get rid of all the autumn leaves in your garden, as hedgehogs love hiding among them.
Love the idea of making your garden wildlife friendly? Get more advice on how to create a wildlife garden in our guide.
5. Make a hedgehog house
This is very easy and cheap: simply leave a cardboard box, plant pot, or paper basket for them in a shady, undisturbed spot in the garden. Secure it with bricks to make sure it doesn't get blown over. You never know, a hedgehog might even choose it as their permanent home.
- *Tips provided by GardenBuildingsDirect.com.