Dig It - January Tips From The Secret Gardener

Snowy oak leaf

January is the month when the Secret Gardener temporarily puts down her trowel and throws her wellies in the shed.

At this time of year the mini beasts hunkering down against the cold don’t want to be disturbed, so, if you can, avoid the temptation to embark on a spot of mid-winter digging, forget about those garden chores for a while and instead focus on the birds.

Nigel Blake RSPB imagesLater this month thousands of pairs of eyes will be trained upon bird feeders across the length and breadth of the UK’s gardens as the Big Garden Birdwatch gets underway.

If you enjoyed our Big Butterfly Count over the summer then the RSPB’s long-running project now in its 39th year may provide the wildlife watching fix needed to banish any New Year blues.

Simply spend an hour spotting the birds visiting your outdoor space between 27-29 January, submit your results and help the RSPB build a clearer picture about how the UK’s garden birds are faring.

Your wildlife gardening over the last 12 months to help butterflies and moths will also provide a boost for garden birds. Check the Teasel planted for pollinating insects earlier in the year, their seed-rich heads will attract flocks of colourful Goldfinch.

Butterfly favourite Ivy, if left to its own sprawling devices, will shelter Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. Remaining windfall apples, so beloved of autumn Red Admirals, could also draw in Fieldfare, Redwing and if you are super lucky, stunning Waxwings from Scandinavia.

Rahul Thankie RSPB ImagesBeech planted to provide food for caterpillars will now come into its own as birds scour Beech hedges and trees for any remaining seeds (mast) not hoovered up in the autumn.

And of course you can always rely on your humble feeder, filled with anything from peanuts, suet balls to nyjer seeds, to bring in the birds.

Feeding garden birds provides a key lifeline during severe weather and, at a time when wildlife habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate from our countryside, creates food-rich refuge.

Last year more than half a million people took part, counting an astonishing 8 million birds. House Sparrow topped the charts with Starling and Blackbird taking the other top spots.

For more information visit the Big Garden Birdwatch website

By Butterfly magazine editor Liam Creedon

Follow Liam on Twitter @liamcreedon

peacockAlthough butterflies are few and far between this month there are a few species already on the wing on warmer days. Help us track species emergence and behaviour by registering your garden with the Garden Butterfly Survey and telling us which butterflies you see in each month of 2018.