How to help wildlife during unseasonable weather

How to help wildlife during unseasonable weather

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This month may have marked the start of summer, but the weather outside has been distinctly un-summery just lately.

Far from basking in the beginnings of 'flaming June', we watched from our windows as gales brought down trees, planes had to abandon landings and the Met Office issued warnings for winds of up to 60mph in places, with Scotland and the north of England particularly badly affected.

Many of us were left wondering if we had accidentally slept through the warmer months and woken up in October! It's a strange situation when the weather outside is very different to what gardening guides and wildlife books are telling us should be happening.

For example, the RHS's Gardening Month by Month says we should be protecting plants from hot and prolonged dry spells, while various wildlife-spotting websites promise butterflies and dragonflies a-plenty - yet many creatures have been forced to hide from the inclement weather and some usually abundant plants and flowers have been delayed by cool temperatures.

The bad weather is likely to have been having an impact on the birds and other animals that frequent our gardens, so is there anything you can do to help? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

Here are our top tips on how to give wildlife a helping hand during unseasonable conditions.

Keep feeding the birds

This is something we'd advocate anyway since birds actually need supplementary nutrition all year round, but it's especially important when the cold, wind and rain may be causing shortages of the insects and fruits they would normally snack on.

Our Hi Energy, No Mess seed mix has a wide appeal to a variety of species and should help your feathered friends out when storm and tempest means they can't forage as usual. 

Provide shelter

We like to get out of storms and howling winds and garden wildlife is no different, so why not give all creatures great and small a safe place to go? Even if you haven't had birds breeding this time, they might appreciate a nest box to rest in, while bat boxes can be erected easily and may be vital when day or even night-time day temperatures drop.

An Insect Residence or Insect Tower can also provide shelter for bumblebees, solitary bees, lacewings, ladybirds, butterflies and much more.

Plant hardy foliage for nectar and shelter

Cold weather can lead to struggling insects - and if they're not around, there will be a lack of pollination and a decline in the available food for species like Swallows and Swifts.

The hardier the plants you can put in your flower beds, the better when conditions are like this - try choosing English cottage varieties rather than the bedding plants you might find at DIY stores for this reason.

Good ones include foxglove, Culver's root, lungwort, hardy geranium and lavender.

Prevent flooding

Standing water can quickly mount up after torrential rainstorms and it can be dangerous for species like hedgehogs and dormice, as well as fledgling birds and the insects they eat.

To prevent this, add lots of organic matter like garden compost or chipped bark to your flower beds and clear drains of washed-away leaves regularly. Ensure ponds aren't over-filling and are still escapable using access ramps too, as this can be essential for frogs and small mammals. You might also consider minimising the amount of hard surfaces, creating run-off areas and laying drainage pipes in the long term.

Hopefully the real British summertime will kick in soon - but in the meantime, it's a great idea to extend a little help to the wildlife that's no doubt as bemused about recent conditions as us!