Presents to buy, parties to organise, food to cook, relatives to entertain…..I probably don't need to remind you that Christmas is coming!
It doesn’t leave you much time to spend in the garden, but just spending a few minutes out there might be what you need to relieve some of the stress.
So I’ve come up with 12 things that are easy to do in the garden in the run-up to Christmas, which you can mix and match with Anna’s 12 wildlife tips here to give you a very satisfying run-up to the big day.
1. Leave any shrub and hedge pruning until the New Year. See, I told you this was going to be easy! Not pruning now will mean that any berries, moth eggs and larvae will still be available for the birds in these lean winter months.
2. Put something wildlife-friendly on your wish-list to Santa. Maybe a birdbox, or a new feeder (here's my recommendation of the one that's best for keeping off grey squirrels - expensive but worth every penny)? They are presents that will give you years of pleasure.
3. Feed the birds. Ok, so you will need to pull on your gloves and overcoat for this one, but keeping those feeders topped up at this time of year is so important. My recommendation (or at least my birds' recommendation!) is sunflower hearts.
4. Leave the dead stems standing from this year’s flowers. They will look great when frosted or speckled with snow, they harbour insects and seeds for birds, and they help protect the soil beneath. You can tidy them up come March, by which time many of them will have been broken off at the base by frost and snow, making it easier to comb them out.
5. Clean your feeders. Of all the things on the list, this will probably take the longest, a full 30 minutes maybe. But just as you won’t be feeding your human guests on Christmas Day off dirty plates, so it feels only right not to do the same for your feathered friends. There’s a very important reason to do it – bird feeding areas are where any bird disease that’s ‘doing the rounds’ can be transmitted, and the one we're really worried about is trichomoniasis: it is proving fatal to our greenfinches. So a quick sploosh out of feeders with weak disinfectant and then with warm water should do the trick.
6. Buy friends and family presents that will help them have a more wildlife friendly garden. It is a great way of introducing them to the joys of nature. (And just to save you looking, here's the link to the RSPB shop - you don't have to buy from here, of course, but just in case...). (RSPB Editorial: What Adrian should have mentioned here is the new edition of his award winning RSPB Gardening for Wildlife book!).
7. Rake up leaves from the lawn. It will mean you don't have bald patched in your lawn next year, and you can just put them in a corner, where they will slowly rot down to beautiful leaf-mould.
8. Buy some wildlife-friendly seeds to grow in 2018. There are few better feelings than growing your own plants for seeds, and it is so cheap, too.
9. Decide which part of the lawn you'll leave uncut next year. It could be a nice symmetrical shape, around which you just mow around the edges to make it look neat. It will save you so much time next year, and it's brilliant for wildlife. Here is some more advice about how to do it successfully.
10. Pledge one thing that you will do for wildlife in your garden next year. Will it be the year when that pond finally gets built? Or you plant a hedge? Or you break up that ugly area of hardstanding and return it to nature? Write down your pledge and put it up on a wall where you won't be able to ignore it.
11. Plant a bare-root whip. (A whip is a little tree). They are really cheap to buy, and don't need much of a hole to plant it. Once bought, the job could be done in 20 minutes, followed by a lifetime of pleasure. Here's my top tips for how to plant one.
12. On a fine day, just take a walk around the garden. Soak in the sights and sounds, see if any wildlife is still showing, or remember the butterflies and bees or other wildlife highlights you've had there. It's great for the soul, and for your Christmas blood pressure!
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