“The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s possible Emerson was referring to the protection that hedgehog’s spikes offer from the dangerous outside world. Or, perhaps he was simply mentioning that hedgehogs are an asset to all gardens.
Why our gardens need hedgehogs
You see, if dogs are a man’s best friend, then hedgehog’s are a gardener’s best friend. Unbeknownst to themselves, they hoover up harmful pests and help to mix soil for maximum fertility – and that’s all just in a day’s hedgehog business!
There are worms, beetles, slugs, caterpillars, and millipedes on a hedgehog’s daily menu. Unfortunately, these also just happen to be the pesky critters that wage war on your carefully crafted flower beds and vegetable patches. So, you could lay down environmentally harmful and morally questionable insecticides. Or, you could invite nature’s hoover and pest control into your garden.
And it’s not all about you and your garden. So if you were feeling your motives for coaxing hedgehog’s into your carefully curated garden were selfish – worry not. When you spot a hedgehog traipsing about your green, you can rest assured you’re doing your bit.
Hedgehogs aren’t doing so hot right now. In fact, they’re quite endangered. So by making your garden hedgehog-friendly enough for one (or a few more) to set up shop, you’re already doing your bit for the hedgehog species.
How to attract hedgehogs to your garden?
Hedgehogs are low-maintenance creatures. They supply their protective and life-giving abilities. In return, their demands are simple: Food, water, and shelter.
First of all, we all know what water is. But how do we supply it for so that our prickly friends can lap it up?
Water for hedgehogs
Simple! A shallow, round bowl should meet hedgehog standards. And, while they’re not exactly known for scoffing at water quality, they do prefer somewhat stagnant water due to their familiarity with lake and pond water. Still, filling up an accessible container with tap water is completely acceptable and by no means dangerous to their health – you won’t hear any complaints anyhow – they’re only prickly in one way!
Though they be tiny, they be mighty! Hedgehogs are ramblers. When we see them, they seem to remain still. That’s because they’re employing the “if I don’t move, they won’t attack me” strategy – pretty clever. However, when we’re not looking, they cover a staggering 1-2 miles every night.
For you or I, that’s a light stroll. But, for their tiny legs – it’s a marathon. And, it’s a marathon they never skip. So, by making way for them to enjoy their nightly travels, you stand a higher chance of having them regularly stop in your garden along the way.
Consider cutting small, hedgehog-shaped holes in your fences (with your neighbors’ consent!) Or clear up any unnecessary blockages. Hedgehogs generally need an access point that’s 5×5 inches (13x13cm.)
If your garden has a water feature such as a lake, pond, or pool, it may be acting as a hedgehog deterrent. While hedgehogs enjoy water, they’re not adept at climbing steep embankments due to their tiny legs. What that means is that your pond’s 2-inch drop-off could be detrimental. So, while hedgehogs are adept swimmers, be sure to use stones, wood, or some chicken wire to create a simple ramp in any steep-sided water features. A good rule of thumb is to keep a “hedgehog escape route” in mind for any body of water in your garden.
Show your garden’s wild side
As a gardener, it can be hard to let certain parts of your garden flourish unchecked. However, suppose you can pick out a particular corner of greenery and ‘shrubbage’ (especially if it’s near your hedgehog point of entrance). In that case, little prickly critters will feel a lot more welcome among your handiwork.
Why? Well, hedgehogs aren’t exactly resting easily at the top of the food chain. Just like any other small-scale animal, they need places to hide, and there’s nowhere they prefer to take shelter than thick, disheveled shrubbery or small holes. So, be the master of your own “wild corner,” and show hedgehogs that they’re welcome in your garden.
By virtue of owning a garden, you’ve already got exactly what a hedgehog expects for dinner: Insects and other invertebrates. Better yet, by following the above step and letting a section of your garden grow wild, you’re ensuring your little critter stock remains high and plentiful for our little spiky friends.
However, if you’d like to put forward a little extra encouragement, hedgehogs aren’t fussy. In fact, they enjoy the exact same food as dogs and cats. Dog and cat biscuits are a favorite. And, they’ll even chow down on some good, meaty dog or cat food.
However, if you’d like to go that step further and really perfect the 5-star hedgehog garden experience, you can purchase hedgehog food to entice them into your greenery!
Consider establishing a hedgehog feeding box in a safe and sheltered location in your garden near a hedgehog hole.
Note: Apples, bananas, berries, and melons are popular choices among hedgehogs. Fresh tomatoes, fresh green beans, and cooked squash are also favorites.
Warning: Avoid milk, and starchy foods such as corn, potatoes, carrots, and other dried vegetables.
Somewhere to spend the night
While hedgehogs enjoy roaming, they still need to sleep. So, hedgehog bedding is a necessity for any good hedgehog-friendly garden. Hedgehogs seek out leaf piles and long grasses to use as bedding in their breeding and hibernation nests.
Picking the right plants and flowers
Hedgehogs don’t only like to hide away in hedges. No no. They’re also a fan of hedgehog real estate. Hedgehog houses provide shelter and food for these lovely animals. Still, they can also look stylish in your garden and act as a design feature. You can buy ready-built houses, or you can build your own. Makeshift options include a hollow pile of logs padded out with leaves.
- Don’t use slug pellets or other chemicals in your garden – the toxins and chemicals contained within these products can be harmful and even deadly for hedgehogs.
- Don’t use netting on the ground wherever possible – hedgehogs can become tangled within the strands of the net.
- Don’t mow or trim your lawn without checking for Hedgehog markings.
- Don’t light fires without checking the area first.
Hedgehogs won’t visit every garden. But, if you tweak a few aspects of your garden, you stand to spot a few spikey critters crawling around your flora! Hedgehogs offer invaluable benefits to both gardeners and their gardens. They take the night shift, and you take the day shift! So, be sure to follow the tips above and curate a thriving environment for our quilled friends!