Come with me and discover how, as summer slips into autumn, there are plenty of things you can do to help wildlife in your outdoor space.  

Adrian Thomas 

The flowers are going over, the nights are drawing in, so you might think it is time to ha ng up your tools and call it a year in the ‘garden’ (and when I say ‘garden’, I always mean whatever outside space you have, whether it be ten acres or a window box).  

However, I think that autumn is such a special time for doing things around the garden to help wildlife. 

Nestboxes are useful for birds to roost on cold nights (Credit:RSPB)

It is quite easy to get bamboozled with the detail, so I like to summarise the big things we can do to help nature into six easy-to-remember categories. If you do these six, then you are 90% of the way there. 

  1. Fill your space with plants (and if you can choose ones that are known to be wildlife-friendly, all the better) 
  2. Add water 
  3. Cherish dead plant matter – seedheads, sticks, logs, leaves, compost 
  4. Offer supplementary food 
  5. Offer supplementary nesting sites 
  6. Don’t use pesticides 

Autumn is prime time to put the first five of those into practice (the sixth is something to do year-round!) 

 Autumn is a great time to dig a new pond (Credit: RSPB)


  1. Fill your space with plants: You might think that the time for growing things is over, but actually autumn is in many ways just as good as spring. It is the season for planting bulbs (by October, except tulips in November), sowing lawns and wildflower meadows, and getting ready to plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs and roses (from November onwards, but order now). 
  2. Add water: I think autumn is the best time of all to create a pond, because digging in the heat of summer is sweaty business and in winter and spring the earth can be really claggy. And as long as you or someone in your life is fit to wield a spade, a small pond can easily be completed in a day. 
  3. Dead plant matter. Leave seedheads standing – they will look great in the frosts and will offer food for birds and hideaways for insects. Rake leaves off lawns as they fall, but never throw them away – pile them in corners or under bushes where birds can flick over them, and where Hedgehogs can roll in them to create a camouflaged coat for winter. 
  4. Offer supplementary food. Gradually fill those feeders as birds return to gardens as the weather cools. And don’t forget the Hedgehogs – put out tinned cat or dog food or proper Hedgehog food to get them into condition for winter. 
  5. Offer supplementary nestsites. Yes, you don’t need to wait till early spring to put up nestboxes – put them up now so that birds can roost in them on cold nights. And remember this is prime time to clean out existing nestboxes. 

Oh, and you know that list of six things I said at the start that take you 90% of the way to having a wildlife-friendly space? What about the other 10%? 

Here are the two extras that will take you from great to fabulous! 

6) Be ambitious. Nature is struggling and needs bold solutions, and so the time has gone for us to be timid in our response. Do everything you can. 

And 7) Share what you do. Talk about your garden to anyone who will listen. Take photos for social media. Inspire the next generation. Spreading your love is the thing that will ultimately save nature! 

Oh, and just enjoy all the delights of being out in autumn with nature around you. It is a beautiful, special thing.