Guest blog: in an extract from her new book, The Climate Change Garden, author Kim Stoddart explains how working with wildlife will help bring a natural resilience to our gardens...
What should a garden look like? Although more naturalistically-minded planting has increasingly been seen at flower shows like RHS Chelsea in recent years, there is still very much an ingrained perception that our outside spaces should be ordered and nature firmly kept in check.
The ideal garden from this viewpoint is probably an immaculate, weed-free, trimmed short lawn, with trees and shrubs uniformly pruned back into place, exceptionally neat, symmetrical flower beds, veg patches full of blocks of produce…. and all of it held together with a fastidious attention to tidy detail for most of the year.
Yet, as well as involving an awful lot of work, the backbreaking process of keeping an outside space in such a spotless condition also leaves the plants therein potentially a lot more vulnerable to the elements and needy of year-round attention.
Certainly, digging your garden over and leaving it weed/plant free over winter is damaging, making your precious loam much more susceptible to nutrient leach away. Likewise in the summer months, a neatly ordered and spaced flower bed is going to dry out a lot more quickly than one which is wilder in aesthetic with much more ground cover to help keep precious moisture in.
Alongside the many, many timesaving perks of letting your garden grow a little wilder… the benefits to wildlife are immense. In turn, the advantages to your garden and to you as the custodian of your plot are tenfold when it comes to helping to build natural biodiversity and resilience from within.
For example; in an eat and be eaten world, where your garden is truly alive with a range of wildlife and beneficial predators within, it’s much harder for one type of creature to dominate and cause problems overall. All life great and small has a role to play as part of the natural balance. So, by letting go of this image of the perfect, almost sterile plot and actively encouraging wildlife in, our workload will be lessened, our gardens afforded greater protection and our lives enriched beyond measure.
Here’s how to easily encourage wildlife
Allow even a small area of your garden to become a little overgrown; letting wildflowers move in, the grass become long and a few stinging nettles to prosper and grow, will encourage a greater range of wildlife (such as moths, butterflies, ladybirds and ground beetles) into your outside space.
Make your own pond
Even an old sink basin placed in a hole in the ground has the potential to draw beneficial predators like frogs, newts and toads in. Place some stones or a small woodpile nearby and see how your garden truly bursts into life.
Don’t be meticulously tidy
Weeds like dandelions are an important source of nectar for early emerging bees so leaving them to flower and mowing before they set seed will help encourage pollinators into your plot. Likewise, leaf litter, some dead wood and stones all provide attractive habitats for a range of gardening heroes so leaving some in situ is a sensible option.
Feed the birds
They play an important role in pecking off garden pests so give them some help during winter by filling bird feeders and leaving out water.
Plant for pollen
The greater the mixture of near-year-round flowering planting you have, the better your garden will be from a pollinator perspective. Some of the best to weave into existing planting include honeysuckle, snowdrops, hellebores, thyme, lavender, rosemary and gorse.
About The Climate Change Garden Book
Co-written with Soil Association magazine editor, Sally Morgan, the book aims to empower you with the knowledge, skills and confidence to become a climate change savvy gardener. It can be purchased here.
Kim writes for a range of national publications and runs popular polytunnel growing and get climate change smart day courses. She is offering us a special 20% off all 2020 bookings made before the end of November 2019. Just mention Suttons when booking via https://www.paypal.me/Polytun to take advantage of the specially discounted price of £76. See www.greenrocketcourses.com for available dates and more details.