We have always been fascinated by ecosystems whether they be in rivers, the sea, rainforests, or our back garden. The fact that they are all pyramidical in shape and the bottom layers always consist of micro-organisms and minibeasts seems almost unbelievable.
They are supporting at the top of the pyramid the orcas and tigers, and in our garden the foxes, badgers, owls, and hedgehogs. So, if you want to attract hedgehogs to your garden a hedgehog house is a good idea, but as we discovered many years ago you must also encourage all the micro-organisms and minibeasts or the hedgehogs won’t spend very long in your garden.
You will need the minibeasts that hedgehogs are very partial to like beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, slugs, and snails; and in our garden they also like fallen apples and froglets.
You need a garden therefore with places for all these minibeasts to live and a plentiful supply of food for them. Many years ago, we read Chris Baines' book on ’How to Create a Wildlife Garden’. It was there we learnt about log piles and although we only had a small garden then, we created a small log pile – 2 or 3 logs and lots of twigs, prunings from shrubs, and thick stalks cut down in winters from our herbaceous border.
We used to keep moving things to one side to have a look and eventually beetles and woodlice and lots of other minibeasts - which we didn’t know the name of - started to appear. We never saw a hedgehog in that garden, we did see some poo once which we thought might be from a hedgehog, but we couldn’t ever prove it because in those days we didn’t have a wildlife camera to see what visited after dark.
Two gardens on we now have a bigger garden and we have been able to indulge our passion for log piles all over the place. But with our camera we know that the hedgehogs as well as the log piles, like long grass, piles of leaves, and our flower beds, especially the untidy bits where they find slugs and caterpillars. And to our surprise this year they often wandered into our new wild-flower meadow. When we cut the meadows down, we perhaps found one of the reasons – loads of little froglets from our pond! Leaving areas of your lawn uncut gives you the same benefit with wildflowers appearing from nowhere.
So, if you create a garden for hedgehogs you will attract a lot of other insects too, including butterflies and moths and their caterpillars, and start to re-wild your garden, link into the new village hedgehog highway and help improve the environment.
By Jane & Terry Tricker, North Cottage, The Green, Whittington