Winter gardening for wildlife allows our family to help sustain our local animal community during the long cold winter months when they are looking for their basic needs of food, water, and shelter. In my last Winter Garden For Wildlife post, I shared how we have structured our garden to help encourage wildlife to visit all year long. One of the vital components of a winter garden for wildlife is to create sheltering spots.This often means leaving a little “messiness” in your winter garden. With just a little effort and planning, you can be rewarded with daily visits from the birds and other animals who enjoy your winter garden.
Spreading fallen leaves over your flower beds makes a place for birds to forage and other creatures to over-winter. I have observed the towhees and the juncos picking through the leaves looking for something to eat. We even add in a few of the smaller fallen branches to the pile which give additional spots for birds to perch and land under the feeder. If you have access to a few logs, making a log pile would be another option for a variety of creatures to use as shelter.
Our rock patches are the perfect place for overwintering creatures to hide in and under.I know there are insects of some kind living in these rocks….I have seen beetles. I also have observed that the Western scrub jays and robins poke around in these rocks which leads me to believe there are some tasty morsels in the rocks for them to enjoy.
Larger rocks allow for creatures to shelter from the winter temperatures and conditions. They seem to find all the nooks and crannies to squeeze into and to use as protection. I have even seen a few lizards out here on the big rocks…not my favorite creatures but still very awesome to see.
Although we do prune back the trumpet vines and climbing rose twice a year, we leave it to grow over the winter to allow the birds to perch and shelter. Our main backyard bird feeder is just to the left of the edge of this photo and the birds will use these vines as landing spots on their way to and from the feeder. I have also seen the birds huddled inside the vines when the wind is howling away…they seem all snug tucked up inside. The littler birds escape the larger birds by getting up inside the vines…many layers of shelter going on in this spot of the yard.
Leaving dry plant stems in the garden leaves a place for insects and spiders to shelter. I read somewhere that there are insects that will crawl into the hollow stems for shelter through the winter. I have not seen this yet but my eyes are on the alert!
The shrubs and bushes in our yard provide the best protection from the rain and snow. I often will see birds tucked up inside the limbs of the bushes in our yard even in the hardest downpours. There are several spots in the lavender bushes that look like the image above where the birds have created a little hiding spot.
Planning ahead when you are finishing your autumn garden clean-up gives your winter garden a chance to provide the shelter your neighborhood creatures need to survive the cold and wet conditions of the season. Shelter from the wind, rain, snow, ice, and predators is a vital part of any winter garden plan.
You may be interested in reading this additional backyard habitat entry:
Making Your Backyard a Wildlife Habitat