In the Salad House yesterday I heard a strange noise. It took me a moment to realise what it was which was the contented snoring of a sleeping hedgehog.
One of our hedgehogs has set up a nest in the second bay of the glass house. Hedgehogs often have more than one nest as they often travel distances of up to two miles in a night and generally have a range of around four miles in which they will search for food.
We have four hedge pigs here. GP (short for Greedy Pig, he is huge and until we got wise to it, often ate all the cat food as well as anything we put down for the hedgehogs), Blondie, Hogsley and a young ‘un, newly hatched earlier this year. The presence of so many in a relatively small space of five acres means we do put special hedgehog food down as well as letting them hoover up slugs, beetles and the like. They are also partial to apples so I do wonder if they end up drunk in September munching on windfalls.
They really are excellent pest controllers and I’m pretty sure that the reason we have such low populations of slugs and snails is due to their hard work. So we make sure that we have some areas that are particularly hospitable for them, like the wild area right at the bottom of the Garden next to the chickens.
Of course, the best laid plans and all that. Last winter I was tidying up the Hot Border, clearing leaf litter and other plant debris when the pile I was shifting suddenly made a very loud grumbling noise. I practically leapt out of my skin I was so surprised. Realising what it was, I apologised profusely to the now gently moving pile. Fortunately it was clearly only a stretch and the pile settled down again. So we put a notice up next to it reading ‘Please do not disturb’.
All in all our hedgehogs are very welcome here and, given they are in steep decline through growing urbanisation if we can all leave part of our gardens a little wilder it will help them. Leave some leaves and logs they can nest in and that will also house the invertebrates they love to eat.
Make sure you leave a small gap at the bottom of any fencing so that they have a big enough area to roam.
Feed a special hedgehog food like Spike or cat food (but not fish-based) which will encourage them to return to your garden. Don’t give them milk as it gives them the runs. Do check your bonfire before you light it and check any areas of long grass before you use a strimmer or mower particularly near the bottom of hedges.
And please, no slug pellets: they are poison to hedgehogs. They’ll get rid of the slugs on their own, given the opportunity. We need our hedgehogs so let’s give them all the help we can.
Tricia Harris November 2018