John is both head chef and lead gardener here at the hotel, and he works hard to produce healthy crops that make tasty dishes.
He likes to grow his crops with the environment in mind, so encourages garden-friendly wildlife to help control bugs and pests, and at this time of year those mammals, birds and insects in the garden need a little bit of extra help to keep it going during the colder days and nights.
Here are his handy hints to help keep them well-fed, safe and cosy:
- To help birds build up their energy reserves for long migrations or winter survival leave out high energy foods such as fat balls.
- Bird boxes should be cleaned out and old nesting material, which can harbour parasites, destroyed or thrown out. Wash them out with boiling water and repair them if necessary. Do this job well before late winter, when some birds will already be prospecting for news sites.
- Putting out dry or tinned meat-based pet food as well as a bowl of water will help to encourage hedgehogs to your garden. To protect the food from cats and foxes, use a cover with a small entrance.
- Birds and other small animals, including badgers, like plants that produce berries such as berberis, honeysuckle and pyracantha.
- Autumn flowers such as ligularia and sedum will help butterflies and bees build up their winter reserves.
- Hedgehogs tend to hibernate in compost heaps, so take a little care as you fork out the compost or turn it. When you’re building a new heap, make a deluxe hedgehog home at the bottom: use an old washing-up bowl turned upside down with a hole cut in the side and, leading from this, a piece of old drainpipe as an entrance tunnel.
- Honeybees also rely on ivy during the autumn months. Up to 89% of pollen is collected from the evergreen’s flowers, so, wherever possible, allow mature ivy to flourish in your garden.