Gardening for wildlife in the autumn makes for a beautiful spring bloom

Here we are at Grow Wilder looking at some of the things we do on site in autumn. As the leaves start to turn colour and the evenings get darker you might be thinking about tidying up and putting the garden to bed for the winter. But bear a thought for all the creatures that call your garden home. Where do they go through the winter and what will they eat next year?

Wild corners that aren’t too tidy, areas of longer grass and dead stems left to stand as the plants die back for winter are important hiding places for many small creatures. Queen bumblebees hibernate ready to start a new nest in spring. Solitary bees spend winter as pupae in hollow stems, holes in the ground and logs. Many other bugs need these cosy places to hibernate through the winter cold. At Grow Wilder, Avon Wildlife Trust’s wildlife gardening and community hub, we have many wild edges where the grass is left long and we leave the hollow, dead stems of hogweeds and cow parsley.

What will they feed on next year? When they emerge in spring the first thing they need is food.  Autumn is a great time to plant native wildflowers to flower next year.  Planting now lets the plants settle in and have a bit of growing time before the really cold weather sets in and leaves get ready to shoot away as soon as the weather starts to warm up in spring. You are giving them a head-start over plants planted in the spring and will get bigger plants and more flowers, ready to feed the hungry pollinators when they emerge.

We have many areas of different native wildflowers at Grow Wilder providing homes and food for so many different insects. Some of them eat many different plants, some are very particular and feed on only one or two. These insects then in turn become food for birds and small mammals. A family of ten blue tit keeps the parents very busy gathering around a thousand caterpillars a day to feed them. And all those caterpillars need their chosen plants to eat and hatch from eggs laid by butterflies or moths that feasted on the nectar from the wildflowers.

We’ve also created a new pond in our demonstration wildlife garden. We’ve built a small dam at one side and filled it with soil to create a pond margin for planting. We’ve then planted this with pond plants such as the pretty pink ragged robin, the yellow-flowered creeping jenny and tall, purple loosestrife loved by bees and butterflies. In only four weeks we have pond skaters, a diving beetle, mating ruddy darter dragonflies and a frog. Build it and they will come!

In Grow Wilder’s wildflower nursery there is still plenty to do. The nursery is open all year round and we are busy sending out plant orders, large and small, for autumn planting.  We are continuing to plant out wildflowers around the Grow Wilder site. We are also harvesting seed from our wildflowers and sowing them to create more living seed banks to harvest wildflower seed from next year and to grow stock for next year.  It’s a continuing cycle much like the change of the seasons.

So how about making your garden a bit wilder this autumn giving our urban wildlife a helping hand?

The wildflower nursery is open throughout the week 9am-5pm, and 10am-4pm on the weekends. On the weekends we also open our wonderful café, serving teas, coffees and cakes and have a nature trial with self-guided kits that families can pick up to enjoy with their little ones as they go on adventure around the site and take in the wildlife-rich space, teeming with insects, and autumn wildlife.

To find out more about visiting Grow Wilder or about visiting our online shop visit: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/growwilder or growwilder.co.uk. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram, where we post regular updates about events and what’s happening on site.