Gardening Editor Ruth Hayes is self-isolating - but very thankful to have the garden to escape to in these most strange of times

We have been seeing signs that our hedgehog(s) are up and doing after their winter for around 10 days now. By ‘signs’ I mean little black torpedoes of poo left casually lying about on the patio and lawn.

Hedgehog poo. Hedgehog droppings.

Hedgehog poo is distinctively shaped.

Despite their calling cards, we hadn’t seen an actual hog – until last night when I stumbled up the lawn by failing torchlight to place a bowl of hedgehog food by the hedge, and almost fell over one.

It was a large, healthy looking beast and I’m not sure which of us was the most startled by the encounter. Having squeaked excitedly, I made a hasty retreat and took another route to deliver the bowl of morsels.

It feels like a privilege to have a hedgehog in the garden as their numbers have plummeted and you’re more likely to see one pancaked on the road than scuttling about their business. We had one memorable evening last summer with three pottering around the garden at once, and hopefully they will be a regular presence this year.

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Feeding the right things
Hedgehogs are especially vulnerable in early spring when they are thin and hungry straight after hibernation. Feeding them helps hugely, but is important to give them the right things.

Bread, milk and mealworms (which hedgehogs adore, sadly) are a definite no-no. The first will cause severe gastric problems, the latter bring about metabolic bone disease, which robs their bones of calcium leaving them crippled and invariably results in a slow painful death.

Please think about this when feeding your garden’s wild bird population – place bread and mealworms on the bird table, never ever scatter them on the ground.

Hedgehog food

Special hedgehog food or meaty cat and dog food is ideal for hedgehogs.

Special hedgehog food is widely available online and in garden centres and they will also tuck into meat-based cat and dog food. The best thing you can do, however, is allow insects, snails and worms proliferate in the garden, as these are their natural foods.

Hedgehogs will also thank you for a bowl of clean water and a scruffy area of garden where they can sleep, breed and forage. And don’t forget to make a hole in your garden fences (check with a neighbour first) so hogs can wander between safe gardens instead of having to go onto busy roads at night.

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Garden birds
The garden birds are also full of action at the moment and the bird feeders need replenishing on an almost-daily basis.

Bird feeders in garden. Feeding birds in garden.

Feeding the birds is all part of enjoying the wildlife in your garden.

Most common are the sparrows, followed by an assortment of tits (blue, great and coal) and a squabbling tribe of starlings. My favourite at the long-tailed tits, members of the babbler family that flock into the garden like squeaking feathered Ping-Pong balls with tails.

Hopefully something will take up residence in the nestbox, but it’s early days, I’ll keep you posted.

News in brief

  • Thompson & Morgan has been in touch with its Coronavirus response. The company has been inundated with orders as people stay home and garden more, but staff are working hard to fulfill everyone’s requirements though deliveries may take longer to arrive. The phonelines are being staffed from 10am-5pm and callers should anticipate a 5-20 minute waiting time. There are good stocks of seed and plant suppliers are continuing to grow to fulfil orders. Call 0333 400 0033 or visit Thompson-morgan.com for further details.

 

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If there’s something you would like me to talk about, just ask. And don’t forget to let us know what you are doing and how you are coping; send us your thoughts and pictures and we will put them online and in the magazine.

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Stay safe everyone out there and come back to the blog for more advice over the coming days and weeks.