Spiky Allotment Friends

Hedgehogs are consistently voted amongst Britain’s favourite wild animals and yet their numbers have been declining. The decline has got so severe that they were recently classified as ‘vulnerable to extinction’.

Hedgehogs are considered the gardener’s friend as they can help keep some garden pests under control. Allotments can have several hazards, but with a bit of thought they can provide safe havens for hedgehogs, who in turn will help the gardeners – a win-win situation.

Here are the British Hedgehog Prevention Society’s top tips for helping the hedgehogs on your allotment:

  • Netting – keep all garden netting a foot above the ground so the hedgehogs can safely pass under it and will not try to go through it and become stuck.  
  • Compost – A compost heap is an ideal place for a hedgehog to make a nest and rear its young. So take care when turning the heap; one thrust of a fork can easily kill more than one baby hedgehog. The safest time to carefully spread the heap is probably October when most babies have left their mum and adults have not yet started to hibernate. Partly used bags of compost may also have nesting hedgehogs in them. 
  • Slug Pellets & other pesticides – we would ask that you don’t use slug pellets at all. If you really insist on using them, use sparingly in the middle of a narrow pipe or under a slab raised just off the ground with pebbles and pick up the dead slugs and snails as soon as possible. Read the directions for use before you use the product. Much better to use organic methods that don’t risk harming hedgehogs or other animals and damaging the food chain. 

  • Bonfires – move the entire pile to a new site on clear ground just before setting fire to it. This should ensure that no hedgehog (or other wildlife or pet) has made a home in the material. Always light the checked pile from one side only to offer an escape route for anything you may have missed.
  • Sheds – do not suddenly decide to keep doors closed which have previously been left open for some weeks without first checking that there is no nesting hedgehog inside. Keep chemicals, oil etc in sheds out of reach of hedgehogs. If a shed needs to be dismantled, try to do it in October when the hoglets have left the nest and hibernation may not have started. 
  • Ponds – if there are any ponds on allotments, make sure there are escape routes e.g. plastic coated wire over the side and into the water to make a ladder, or a gentle slope to at least one of the sides. Keep ponds topped up, especially in hot weather so hedgehogs are less likely to topple in. Keep pots etc that might fill with water upside down. Provide shallow dishes of clean water for all visiting wildlife. 
  • Don’t be too tidy – allotments can be very tidy places which don’t leave many places for hedgehogs to find shelter or food. So consider leaving some wild corners or edges to offer shelter and encourage natural foods supporting the food chain. 
  • Wild Patches – strimmers mutilate – take care when mowing long grass and tidying wild patches, as they are an ideal place for a hedgehog’s nest. When cutting long overgrown areas check for hedgehogs and other wildlife, then cut initially to about a foot long. Check again before cutting any lower. Providing a suitable nesting or hibernating box can help prevent accidental disturbance.     
  • Fences – Create 13 x 13cm (5 x 5”) square holes in the allotment boundaries so hedgehogs can come and go. Use environmentally safe wood preservatives on sheds, fences etc as hedgehogs often lick new smells or substances – your garden centre should be able to advise. Very occasionally hedgehogs are found with a leg trapped in between the gaps in log rolls (used for edging) so check these and other hazards regularly. 

If the guidelines above are followed, allotments can be made much safer places for hedgehogs to live and breed. Surveys show that hedgehog numbers are in decline so anything that can be done to help them will be appreciated. 

About BHPS

Article submitted by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (B.H.P.S)

For more information on helping hedgehogs and the work of BHPS please see: