Winter gardening for wildlife

Winter gardening for wildlife

Anna Williams

Do you have an urban oasis? Could you become a potted champion? This is your winter gardening guide to bring nature right to your doorstep.

You don’t need green fingers or huge amounts of space to create your very own mini nature reserve. Whether you have a garden, allotment, back yard, balcony, patio or window box – you can make a huge difference for your local wildlife.

Feed hungry birds

One simple thing that everyone can do for wildlife this winter is to ensure that there's enough food and water available to give garden visitors a little helping hand over the colder months. A tantalising mixture of high fat content food (like fat balls or peanut cakes), seeds, nuts, grains and over-ripe fruits like apples and raisins will keep garden birds warm and ensure they're getting a varied diet.  

Two greenfinches and a goldfinch on a bird seed feeder

Gillian Day

Get planting

Planting pots and containers with hardy flowers that offer a generous supply of nectar (like crocus, hellebores and snowdrops) is great for late pollinators. For bigger gardens – and you’ll be surprised at how little space you actually really need – you could also consider planting trees or hedge plants. Winter is the best time to do this. Choose species such as hawthorn, rowan and holly that will provide berries for birds in winter. Ivy is also incredibly important for winter wildlife. This woody, evergreen climber not only offers fabulous shelter, but also provides an essential source of food for insects and birds.


Philip Precey

Keep your hogs happy

You could also consider leaving out food for other garden visitors, like hedgehogs. Use plain, meat-based cat food or specialist food from suppliers like our friends at Pet's Choice to help keep their teeth sharp and clean. It’s important to remember to remove any food that doesn’t get eaten overnight and replenish it with fresh food each evening.

Hedgehogs caught feeding on volunteer David Merry's trail camera

David Merry

Keep fresh water flowing

A shallow dish of fresh, clean water will keep your wild guests from going thirsty. If you have a pond you can also ensure it doesn’t freeze over completely by leaving a ball in the water to keep an ice-free section near the edge. Alternatively, melt a hole by holding a pan of hot water on the surface.

Frozen Garden Pond

Anna Williams

Leave those leaves

Leaf litter and log piles provide essential warmth to much of our beloved UK wildlife over winter. Many butterflies find shelter in leaf litter, either in egg, pupal or adult form to safely wait out the winter and emerge in spring. Toads and frogs will also snuggle themselves down in a warm log pile or compost heap and snooze the season away. Smaller gardens can still offer plenty of extra help in the winter by positioning insect hotels in sheltered spots. 

Bug Hotel

Amy Lewis

2,195 of you responded to our recent My Wild City survey and many of you told us your favourite space for wildlife in Manchester was your own garden. In a piece of recent research conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University entitled ‘My Back Yard’, gardens were found to make up one fifth of the green space in Manchester. That means the power is in all our hands to help turn our city wild and create important Nature Recovery Networks, as Sir David Attenborough explains:

“By joining up wild places and creating more across the UK we would improve our lives and help nature to flourish. Because everything works better when it’s connected.” 

- Sir David Attenborough 

We're now in the process of evaluating all of your responses which will not only guide the rest of the My Wild City project, but will also shape the new 10-year vision for wildlife in Manchester. Working closely with Manchester City Council and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn foundation, My Wild City aims to reconnect people with their gardens and local green spaces in Manchester, creating wildlife corridors and green networks for both people and wildlife to enjoy.

Learn more about My Wild City