Hedgehog numbers are sadly declining rapidly in the UK. But there is a lot we can do to reach out a helping hand, and avoid doing any harm to these cute creatures. Making a hedgehog friendly garden should be high on your list of priorities if you live in an area where hedgehogs are to be found.
Hedgehogs are not just an iconic UK animal. They are also a very useful garden creature – helping gardeners by helping to keep down numbers of a range of common pests. Like other garden wildlife, they can help keep the ecosystem in balance, and make it easier for you to grow the plants you want to grow.
Here are ten tips to help you make sure you have a hedgehog friendly garden, and that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle will feel right at home:
Garden Organically at All Times
First and most importantly, it is very important to garden organically. Pesticides, herbicides etc. endanger hedgehogs, they also risk other wildlife important to the ecosystem, and degrade the ecosystem as a whole. An organic garden will always be a friendlier and safer place for wildlife to be. And when you garden in an organic, sustainable and responsible way, you can rest easy knowing that you are doing the right thing.
Keep Things Wild For Hedgehog Habitat
In an organic garden, it is also a good idea to make sure that you are not too orderly in your approach. The goal is to work in harmony with nature rather than fighting it, and that means leaving at least some wilder corners where nature reigns and you do not try to impose too much control. Leaving some wilder edges around your garden will mean that there are plenty of places for hedgehogs to hide, and leafy corridors for them to move around safely.
Stack Logs For the Hogs
Making log or brush piles in corners of your garden is another great way to make hedgehogs feel at home. The logs and rotting wood will give the hedgehogs hiding places. And they will also help in making sure that there are plenty of bugs, beetles and other creatures for the hedgehogs and other animals higher up the food chain to eat. The more diverse habitats you can create, the more likely it is that you will find a wide range of wildlife in your garden.
Avoid Disturbing Areas Where Hedgehogs Might Be Found
Hedgehogs might not always be obvious in your garden. You might have some visitors without actually being aware of it. Hedgehogs might be hiding out under decking or a garden shed, or wending their way through your garden after dark. When it comes to doing any remodelling or other big, disruptive garden jobs, take care to avoid disturbing areas where hedgehogs might be found. Don’t set fire to wood piles without checking them first, be very careful when doing any mowing, and try to leave dark corners undisturbed whenever possible. This is especially important during the winter months, when hedgehogs may be hibernating.
Get Rid of Hedgehog Hazards
In order for your garden to be as hedgehog-friendly as possible, it should be free of hedgehog hazards. Make sure that there are not any holes or open drains that hedgehogs could fall down or be trapped in. It is also important to make sure loose netting and plastic rubbish is not left lying around. And of course, make sure you don’t leave any poisonous substances lying around.
Create Holes or Tunnels To Let the Hedgehogs In
Hedgehogs might love your garden, but might not actually be able to easily reach it. Hedgehogs roam around at night, and should ideally be able to travel easily from one garden to the next. It is a good idea to speak with your neighbours, and where there are solid walls or fences between your gardens, think about making access holes or tunnels to allow hedgehogs to pass through. A hedgehog can fit through a gap under a fence around the size of your fist. But may appreciate it if you create a slightly larger hole for easier access. Just be sure that you speak to your neighbours before making any holes – they may have smaller pets that might escape.
Create a Hedgehog Friendly Garden Pond
Garden ponds can be great for attracting a huge range of different species to your garden. And having a source of fresh water in your garden can definitely be a boon for hedgehogs. They may often be more in need of water than they are of food. But it is important to make sure that the pond is not a hedgehog hazard. There should always be a shallow end and a ramp so that hedgehog that fall into the water can easily get back out.
The pond should have vegetation close to the edge, so hedgehogs can come and drink before quickly retreating to safety under the cover of branches and leaves.
Or Leave Other Water Out For Hedgehogs To Drink
If you do not have a garden pond, it is a good idea to leave some shallow dishes of water out alongside a hedge or border for hedgehogs to drink. A hedgehog may have had to travel quite some way to find water at certain times of the year – especially in lower rainfall areas. Refresh these water dishes regularly to make sure no algae forms and that fresh water is always available.
Make Sure There is Plenty of Hedgehog Food About
Some people like to leave food out for hedgehogs. And as long as you only do so in moderation, and choose hedgehog appropriate foods, this should not do any harm. Of course, you should note that leaving out food may also encourage other, less wanted visitors. (Like rats and grey squirrels for example.)
But the best thing is to make sure there is plenty of natural hedgehog food about. Rather than providing other food sources, it is best to begin by making sure you have done all you can to attract plenty of insect life and other creatures to your garden. Plant and create habitats to increase biodiversity and there should always be plenty in your garden for hedgehogs to eat.
Create Houses for Hedgehog Hibernation
Hedgehogs may also appreciate it if you buy or make hedgehog houses. They can use them to shelter, hibernate and potentially even rear their young. Resist the temptation to check hedgehog houses too often. And don’t be tempted to clean them out all the time. The hedgehogs may choose to use them, or they might not. But placing one or more will mean that they are there if they are wanted.
Do you see hedgehogs in your garden? How do you make sure your garden provides a healthy and suitable habitat for them? And how does it give them what they need? Share your hedgehog sighting stories and experiences in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.