Most of us enjoy nature and wildlife. It is good for the soul and body to listen to birdsong, watch dragon flies , butterflies and put some honey on our toast. Unfortunately a lot of species (around 950) are under threat at the moment from extinction in the UK after we have already lost 500 different plants and animals. Non organic Farmers stick to their monocultures and keep applying pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers to the land. So not much room for biodiversity and wildlife.
It is actually up to us as gardeners to take responsibility and do something to keep some of these threatened species alive. We have to change how we look at our gardens. IF you want to encourage wildlife you have to look at the whole picture and understand that everything is linked and part of a chain or a web of life. One specimen is important to the other, either as a link in the food chain or a host for another. Very often we are far too quick to get the spray or slug pellets out to kill whatever we think might be a threat to our gardens or crops. IF there were enough birds to eat the slugs, maybe we wouldn’t have such trouble. So many gardens are silent and dead, the “perfectly” green grass mowed back to 2 cm without any herbs and flowers and life. Straight borders stacked with exotic plants or hybrids and not too much left for butterflies, ladybirds, other birds, lacewings ,honeybees and all the other pollinators. This year shows quite dramatically what a year without pollinating insect looks like! Some local farms have a loss between 75 and 90 % of their fruit crops, because the honeybees didn’t pollinate the fruit trees.
IF you think GM is the answer, don’t bother to read on, you are on the wrong page! IF you think you want to make a difference and encourage wildlife in your garden, go to your shed and get rid of the pesticides and herbicides. Your roses still look nice with a few black flies on them and the grass looks a lot better with some daisies, clover and dandelion in it. (all of it a good source for honeybees !)
Here are a few basic rules to attract wildlife Basically you need to provide shelter and food for a wide range of animals and insects. This can easily be achieved by simply having a hedge made of native shrubs to provide food (berries) for birds and shelter to build nests and hide. A pond provides a huge range of food and shelter for aquatic animals as well as offering water to birds and insects. Its also a breeding ground for dragon flies, frogs , newts and many other insects which in return will pay off by eating unwanted aphids and so on. Having a section of the garden with long grass and a few stinging nettles would be amazing for a lot of bugs, butter flies, caterpillars and other insects. IF you leave a few empty/hollow canes and leaves in the autumn, ladybirds, lacewing and other insect will find shelter and in spring reward you by getting rid of aphids and other unwanted invaders in the garden. A lot of people would like to do something for the honeybees, under threat for a number of reasons. Being a bee keeper myself, here are a few tips and links, how to make your garden more bee friendly.
Providing nectar and pollen rich plants for as long as possible is essential. (especially the early spring and late in the year, is important for the honeybees to find food) By planting some crocus in the garden (spring) and different herbs like Rosemary, Lavender, Hyssop and Borage there is already some good forage around (plus the culinary addition for your kitchen) With so many bee friendly plants available, it will suit any taste and style, from the formal town garden to the more wild and informal cottage garden. As a basic rule, planting in drifts and groups is better as having a few flowers here and there and also single flowers are better than double ones. IF possible the flowers should be in the sun and in a sheltered position. I will attach a plant list of beneficial plants for honey bees (bumble bees are slightly different as their tongues will reach different nectar sources, like foxglove) but see for yourself which plants in your garden attract what. Don’t be afraid of the bees, they are not suicidal and out to sting you! They are your friend and you can become theirs.
There is a lot of information about bees and also how to become a friend of the bees. Go to www.friendsofthebees.org or if you want to find out more about beekeeping go to www.biobees.com
The wildlife trust as well as other organisations such as natural England www.naturalengland.org.uk have a lot of information about wildlife gardening as well.
Here are some of my favourite nectar rich plants to grow in your garden.
Herbs : Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary, Melissa (Lemon Blam) Borage and Hyssop.Next to the compost heap I grow some Comfrey (also good to accelarate composting process and a good healing plant) Stinging Nettles(supports more than 40 species of insects,a good medicinal plant and makes good fertilizer)There are clovers and dandelion flowers on the lawn and the borders contain Monarda (|Bee Balm) Goldenrod, Asters, Globe Thistle Aqueliquias and forget me nots.
The allotment attracts lots of pollinators anyway, but borage (selfseeds easlily) and Phacelia as Green Manure make it even more attractive to honey bees.