Monty Don follows hedgehog along his garden path
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When it comes to garden pests, most green-thumbed Britons are likely to think the key to healthy flowerbeds is to keep wildlife as far away as possible. However, according to Leigh Barnes of Jackson’s Fencing, there is one small animal which is considered a gardener’s friend.
Ms Barnes explained: “Encouraging hedgehogs in your garden will help to keep garden pests at bay.
“Hedgehogs eat all kinds of garden pests such as slugs, beetles, and caterpillars all of which can eat through your crops and beautiful flower beds.”
According to Jackson’s Fencing, hedgehogs will not eat or damage your existing plants, instead focussing their attention solely on their bounty of bugs.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that the hedgehog population in England, Wales and Scotland has declined to around one million compared with approximately 30 million in the 1950s.
Research by the People’s Trust For Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) suggests that their decline in numbers is partly due to the loss of hedgerows and field margins to intensive farming.
However, there are still ways you can encourage these small pest controllers to visit your garden.
How to attract hedgehogs into your garden
The first and most important way to get hedgehogs into your garden is to make sure they have a suitable access point.
Ms Barnes says this is the “easiest” way to attract them.
According to the RSPCA: “Hedgehogs can travel around a mile every night so, to provide access to enclosed gardens, try cutting holes in fences, removing bricks from walls, or digging tunnels under the garden boundary.
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“This will allow local hogs to move freely in and out of your garden.”
Ms Barnes added: “Hedgehog friendly gravel boards are a great addition to your fencing and having a small hedgehog size hole which allows them to roam freely from garden to garden.”
Leaving out food for them during certain periods may also encourage hedgehogs, though can run the risk of attracting other wildlife too.
The RSPCA recommends leaving out plates of specific foods between February and October to encourage visiting hedgehogs to return regularly.
Ms Barnes said: “Food and fresh water will encourage hedgehogs to your garden.
“Leave out foods such as cat food – not fish-based, or crushed cat biscuit.”
Though hogs do enjoy milk, they should not be given milk as this can cause them stomach problems.
Another way to attract hedgehogs and help them to make your garden their home is by providing shelter.
Ms Barnes explained: “Hedgehogs will make nests which are usually quite large, from garden debris like leaves or grasses.
“They will tuck themselves away in thick hedges or brambles so leaving an area of your garden untouched could entice some hedgehogs.
“Every autumn, piling leaf matter in one quiet corner will make it easier for hedgehogs to make nests.”
The RSPCA also recommends using log or compost piles, making sure to always check for hedgehogs tucked away before moving.
Ms Barnes added: “You can also make hedgehog houses from timber and add dry leaves or straw to fill the box up and create a cosy space.”
As well as adding items into your garden to attract hedgehogs, it is also important to get rid of certain things which can pose a risk.
Ms Barnes explained: “Try to limit the use of slug and pest repellents, not only will this make your garden more natural but it will provide tasty treats for hedgehogs who will, in turn, be a natural bug repellent.”
If you must use them, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends “using sparingly in the middle of a narrow pipe or under a slab raised just off the ground with pebbles and pick up the dead slugs and snails as soon as possible.”
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