October is the month which signals the true arrival of Autumn. Temperatures drop and we are greeted with misty mornings and the first touch of frost. Jays and squirrels start hoarding nuts and acorns for the long winter days when food will become scarce, and birds fatten up on a glut of wild berries and nuts found adorning our hedges and in our woodlands.
October also signals migration and hibernation for much of our familiar garden wildlife. Hedgehogs are prospecting for suitable areas of the garden to spend the winter, along with bats which are gorging themselves on the remaining insects that take to our skies at night, building up fat supplies for their winter torpor.
In the woodland copse, Dormice are starting to hibernate along with some of our much-loved species of butterflies. If you listen carefully in your garden at night you may even be able to hear the high-pitched whistle of fieldfares (a type of thrush) migrating to our shores, all the way from Scandinavia; they travel by night to avoid the risk of predation but call softly to one another.
This month is really important in the wildlife gardening calendar, not only for planning and planting but making sure that your garden wildlife has all it needs to help it get through the tough winter months.
It’s important not to be too tidy: fallen leaves provide shelter for small animals and letting plants such as teasel go to seed provides high energy food for birds, especially finches.
Things to do this month
- Plant bulbs for the Spring (see our bulb recommendation below!)
- Dig in all that juicy compost you have been accumulating throughout the Spring and Summer months
- Divide fibrous rooty perennials
- Sow seeds for grasses, trees and hedgerow shrubs
- Take cuttings from trees in the garden and propagate in the green house
- Plan and plant a woodland copse area in your wildlife garden, even if its just one tree or shrub! Have a look at our recommended tree and shrubs
- Leave at least some fallen leaves on the ground – they provide great hiding places for lots of creatures
- Continue putting food out for hedgehogs as they prepare for hibernation
- Don’t collect all fallen fruit – leave some on the lawn for birds and insects
- Tidy your garden pond. Leave any vegetation you pull out on the side of the pond for a few days to allow any creatures to crawl back in
- Sow a wildflower meadow to provide food and shelter for a variety of insects, birds and mammals. Find out how in our video.
- As always, keep putting out food for the birds. Fat balls are a great source of energy to help birds as the temperature drops
Try to find a reputable garden centre that sells native bulbs (which haven’t been nicked from the wild!)
- Wild Daffodils
- Winter Aconite
- Primrose (not a bulb but gives the garden a lovely colour in Spring and flowers early which is good for wildlife coming out of hibernation)