A third of us are actively trying to encourage wildlife into our gardens — an increase of more than 30 per cent compared with four years ago, according to research by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA).

More products targeted at the wild bird market are available in garden centres and we can choose feeding regimes which will attract birds that we most want to see in our gardens, says the HTA, the trade association for the UK garden industry.

Indeed, some 62 per cent of us now regularly feed the birds in our garden and nearly a quarter provide nesting and breeding habitats.

But birds are not the only wildlife we can look after during the winter months and beyond.

By making leafy habitats and cosy corners, we will provide shelter for small animals who need to hibernate uninterrupted and for beneficial insects who will stop the nuisances such as aphids in their tracks.

Leave stones laid over hollows for toads, newts and even slow worms, as well as centipedes which prey on slugs. Pile up a few logs, which don’t need to be massive, in a quiet, shady spot and soon stag beetles, spiders and bees will be making a home out of this damp log cabin.

Log piles may also be housing slugs and snails, which in turn will attract blackbirds and wood mice looking for a meal, while hedgehogs may also forage for insects and slugs.

Try not to make your garden too tidy if you want to provide shelter for wildlife. Areas of long grass and piles of leaves, stones and twigs provide shelter for many beneficial insects and small mammals. Always check carefully for signs of life by gently turning over autumn bonfires before igniting them.

Ladybirds gather in large clusters to overwinter on dead plant stems, particularly in more sheltered parts of the garden. Helping them through winter will mean fewer aphids in late spring, when ladybird larvae begin to eat them.

There’s a wide variety of foods available which attract different species of bird to your garden. Robins and blackbirds love plump, juicy mealworms which will provide a good source of protein, fat and valuable moisture.

Seed mixes are full of nutritional value and are eagerly consumed by most species. Straight seeds such as sunflower hearts are the first choice for many birds and black sunflowers are enjoyed by chaffinches, greenfinches, sparrows and tits. Nyjer seeds are nirvana for goldfinches and siskins.

Keeping bird feeders and baths well stocked all winter will not only help the birds but also encourages them to explore other nooks and crannies in your garden, where overwintering slugs, caterpillars and other larvae are waiting to be eaten.

Avoid cutting hedges until the end of winter to provide valuable shelter for birds and give them more time to eat the berries and wait until March to cut back ivy growing up walls and fences, so the berries will be available to birds and the foliage can provide a foraging shelter for insect-eaters such as tits.