Gardening for hedgehogs

Gardening for hedgehogs

Hedgehog © Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hill Photography

Sadly, I really can't remember the last time I saw a living hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus).

I just recall it was many years ago and in fact in an urban setting. The hedgehog scurried across a car park and rested under a Pyracantha hedge. 

Unfortunately, my only more recent sightings were a couple of hedgehogs in country lanes that had been obviously hit by cars. I gently lifted them into the growth of the hedges to let nature take its course. 

Without going into all of the individual statistics we really are in a sorry state in terms of wildlife, bees, butterflies, and bats - not to mention wild flowers. And without wishing to stand on one’s soap box, we as nature lovers, and those who care about the environment have to keep trying to do our very best. Any effort, no matter how small all helps. 

Hedgehogs are in decline due to intensive agriculture, badger predation, and in some cases careless gardening practises! 

I long to see a hedgehog and always garden with them in mind. The statistics from The Hedgehog Preservation Society estimate about a third of the population has been lost since the turn of the millennium. An estimated population is left of 1 million in the UK.

I am currently in the process of restoring an old orchard into a haven for wildlife and wildflowers, and so my current vision is looking forward to how this area can really start to look special from next spring onwards. Without digressing too much from the focus of hedgehogs in mind, there is an abundance of the wild flower red campion. The foliage which is now breathing back into life as I rake away the strimmed sward of debris that was swamping them.

Foliage of red campion photo Kevin Line

Foliage of red campion. Photo Kevin Line

Additional perennial wild flower plugs will be planted in late winter early spring. There are many other areas to consider, but what a wonderful haven for wildlife, including our friend in question the hedgehog. 

It's been the raking away of this sward and creating a refuge for wildlife at the end of the old orchard in the shape of a natural and sheltered wall, that the hedgehog comes high up the list in my thinking, along with frogs, toads, spider species and many other insects.

Log piles too are havens for hedgehogs to shelter, old tree stumps with crevices could be potential hide-aways heading towards spring. 

As I work in the old orchard I am aware of food supplies for any hogs that hopefully will take residence. I spot the woodlice and worms, and I think even these beautiful banded snails of which I see so many could be on the menu. 

The hedgehogs will be building up their fat reserves now to take shelter until spring.

I also place out a shallow bowl of water in the garden through the seasons hoping for their return to help keep them hydrated. Also to place out cat or dog food too. You can source specialist hedgehog food from a wildlife supplier. 

I recall a short spell I had many years ago working in a beautiful historic garden called Pusey House in Oxfordshire. In that garden one of the areas comprised a ‘Hedera’ (ivy garden). Within that area a few hedghogs used to reside. It's just one of those things along my gardening journey that of course I have never forgotten. 

Since then I have always gardened with ivies in mind, from a plantsperson’s perspective, simply to help hedgehogs, as well as there being so many beautiful variegated ivies, and cut leaved forms.

I planted these Hedera along a border edge in our garden close to the hedgerow - hopefully a winter residence for a hedgehog.

Ivy planting for hedgehogs. Photo Kevin Line

Ivy planting for hedgehogs. Photo Kevin Line

A few do's & dont's with Hedgehogs in mind: 


  • Place out a shallow bowl of water.
  • Place out a dish of dog or cat food.
  • Position a pile of logs to create a shelter.


  • Never use chemicals, only organic sprays. The whole ecology of the garden is so important, simply because it is, plus the insect life creates the natural foods chain for hedgehogs.
  • If you do strim, keep to a minimum, and keep it higher to avoid injury, BEWARE! 
  • Never ever light bonfires. For starters it's just not good practise for the environment, secondly hedgehogs could be taking shelter in the potential area. Just leave it for the hedgehog to survive, that's more important. Debris rots down and is teaming with wildlife.
Hedgehog and watering can and plant pots and garden spade - Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography

Hedgehog © Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills Photography

Kevin Line

Kevin Line

Kevin is a lifetime Plantsperson, Horticulturist, Gardener & Conservationist, whose work spans over 40 years. He has worked for the National Trust, BBC Gardeners World and as a Head Gardener (North Cotswolds). Kevin works as a freelance horticultural plant consultant which includes advising clients on planting for wildlife friendly  gardens. He was previously the plantsperson at Lakeland Leisure Park, Flookburgh, also working in the area of conservation and ecology. Prior to that he developed a wildlife garden in Bowness On Windermere for three and a half years. The garden opened in 2019 under the National Gardens Scheme and proceeds were raised for Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Kevin has a strong passion for wildlife gardening and is a member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland and the RSPB. His passion and deep-rooted interests extend to wildlife & habitat conservation.