European hedgehog drinking from puddle, Bedfordshire

October gardening tips

A bird-friendly garden should be full of seeds, nuts and berries at this time of year.

Encouraging birds

In October you might spot a jay scouting around for somewhere to bury fallen acorns and hazelnuts. If you let seedheads form on flowers and weeds such as teasels and thistles you'll attract finches, perhaps even brightly coloured goldfinches.

Starlings gather in large groups on treetops and telephone wires before joining up with other groups in large roosts. Letting your lawn grow slightly longer and avoiding chemical sprays can turn your lawn into an all-year feeding station for them. They like to hunt for insects such as leatherjackets, as do blackbirds and thrushes.

 Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, perched on lichen covered branch in garden in Durham.

Planting in autumn

Nectar and pollen tend to be in short supply in the autumn, but they are still essential foods for many insects that over-winter as adults and then become food for birds in early spring. Ensure you have some late-flowering plants such as Michaelmas daisies, sedums and asters. Let perennials form attractive seedheads, for example alliums, honesty and sea hollies.

If you include some native plants in your garden such as crab apple, holly, elder, birch or hawthorn, you will be sure of creating natural food supplies for birds through the winter. Container-grown plants can be planted at any time of year, but now you can save money at this time of year by opting for bare-rooted hedging, or root-balled trees and shrubs.

Jobs for the month

  • Plan and plant new borders
  • Plant bare-root and balled shrubs and trees
  • Plant herbaceous perennials
  • Ensure bird table and feeders are out
  • Tidy up ponds
  • Clean bird baths
  • Plant forget-me-nots, pansies and wallflowers
  • Prune tall roses
  • Plan a vegetable patch and start digging before the first frosts
  • Leave fallen leaves to provide shelter and protection for wildlife
  • Plant spring bulbs
  • Sow hardy peas and broad beans 
  • Leave seedheads to overwinter to provide food for birds