As the nights become colder and trees begin to shed their leaves on damp mornings, it becomes clear that the cycle of the seasons has once again turned. Whereas spring is the season of new life and growth, autumn is a time of preparation and winding down for both animal and plant life. The signs of the season are well known to all of us and are easily noticed whenever we go outside, but we can quite easily miss the small changes that take place in our gardens. So, what changes can the penultimate season of the year bring to the microhabitat that is your garden?
Every garden is unique and the changes that occur throughout autumn will be different to each one, but no matter where you are there are some things that you will always be able to see. Around the start of September, you will start noticing the obvious signs of autumn: the leaves will start turning from green to gold and you will see flocks of birds leaving for warmer climates. But if you pay slightly more attention, both plant and animal life will be making subtle changes that betray a natural world in flux.
If you have a bird-friendly garden, the start of the season will seem to be a bit of a dead zone as the skies fill with flocks of birds migrating to warmer climates for the winter. It can be tempting to pack away the bird feeders and seeds when you start seeing less activity in your garden. But if you keep up with your normal routine you will start to see some new friends in your garden as those bird species that come to the UK for winter start to appear. By late September you will start to see new species outside your kitchen window. Look out for :
- Short eared owls
As these newcomers fill your garden, look out for new behaviours in both the new and native species.
Fruits and Nuts
Spring is the season we most associate with new life, but for the plants in your garden, mid-August is when the prep stats. It is around this time of the year that you will start to see fruits, nuts and berries ripening just as animal species are starting to collect food for the winter. This timing is not coincidental, by providing food, the plants give the animal species the ability to survive through the winter, and in return, the hard work of dispersing seeds is taken care of by the animals as they continue to search for food.
Fungi thrive when the warmth of summer and the damp of autumn come together around September. Just as your brambles and trees start to produce fruit, so does the fungal life in your garden. The majority of a fungal organism exists below the ground, however, when the time comes to spore, you will begin to see the fruit of the fungus (the mushroom) begin to sprout. These growths will appear in damp shaded areas. The colours and shapes of these mushrooms are interesting to look at and if you have a guidebook there is a lot to be learned. Just be careful not to touch them without identifying them first, of the over 3,000 species native to the UK only about 50 are non-poisonous.
Increased Animal Activity
Many species hibernate through the winter. To prepare for the long sleep, hibernating species gorge themselves on insects, berries and nuts in the months before the frosts start. As trees begin to fruit, you will inevitably begin to notice an increase in squirrel activity in your garden. You will either see them raiding your garden for everything you have or you will start finding acorns and nuts in weird places around your garden as it becomes a storehouse for the winter.
Hedgehogs may also become a more common sight as they prepare to hibernate, unlike squirrels and dormice these spiky creatures may need a little extra help when it comes to getting prepped. There are a few ways that you can help like putting out dog food and water or putting a Hogitat in your garden
For those of you with rural gardens, you may start to see a whole range of new and interesting behaviours as some animals will start looking for mates at this time of year and you may see deers rutting or birds courting. Keep an eye out, you might be surprised at what you see.
There is a lot more to be discovered in the autumn than you may think. This list is not exhaustive, but it will give you some idea of what to look out for. Keep your eyes open, the changes are subtle, but they will be happening all around you.
Gary worked in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.