Before the gardening season starts for real it's time to think a bit about how we can try and work a bit more cooperatively with nature and using her to help us in our gardening efforts.
Did you know that that cutting down on the use of harmful pesticides in the garden can benefit your garden as well as the environment. You might not know this, but not every bug in your garden is a bad bug. Some creepy crawlies are in fact eating the bugs that are eating your plants. Knowing which ones to nurture and which ones to blitz can help you to cut down on the use of sprays that are harmful to the environment, without sacrificing your beautiful blooms. Therefore, taking care of the environment does not have to mean a slug infestation.
The food chain begins with the garden in more ways than just growing vegetables. All insects are an important part of the natural food chain in your garden for other wildlife to feed on. By keeping toxic chemicals out of your garden, you allow the beneficial wildlife to make an appearance because more often than not, these good guys are affected to a greater extent than the insect you were trying to control with a pesticide.
Most of us know that Ladyirds and butterflies are the helpful damsels of the garden, but which wildlife are the knights in shining armour? Believe it or not bees, moths, hedgehogs, bats and birds are all responsible for keeping your flowers pest free. But how do you keep this helpful wildlife around?
1. Use ornamental plants that provide a food source over a long period. Include nectar- and pollen-rich plants for bees, butterflies and other flower-visiting insects, and fruiting trees and shrubs for mammals and birds. Night-flowering or scented species will benefit moths.
- Ladybirds like this love nothing more than to munch their way through greenfly that affect our garden plants
2 Create a log pile to benefit insects, fungi, birds, mice, hedgehogs.
- Leave a pile of logs for hedgehogs etc to overwinter
3 Leave some plants uncut throughout winter to provide seeds for food and shelter to birds and other creatures.
4 A water feature (a washing-up bowl set into the ground will do) without fish will enable frogs to spawn. They will return the favour by eating slugs and snails
5 Turning part of your lawn into a wildflower meadow would require careful management but will provide food and shelter for wildlife of all kinds
- Many bees will nest and overwinter in long grass that has been left untended and meadowlike. They will repay you by helping to pollinate your flowers and fruit bushes during the spring and summer
6 Attract bats and hedgehogs by providing specially built boxes comfortable enough for hibernation.
- Bats will soon find this bat box and nest in it
7 Put out a variety of nuts, seeds and fat snacks to attract birds when natural food sources are scarce. They will at the same time eat the bugs and aphids on apple trees.
8 Ivy, honeysuckle and clematis and other climbers along with hedges offer shelter and potential nesting places for birds and over-wintering sites for butterflies
9 Hand picking and removing weak plants that are heavily infested with pests will help keep pests in check as well planting Barriers, such as floating row covers or baited traps are also effective.
10. Avoid spraying pesticides unless it is absolutely necessary so that the good guys have a chance to settle into your garden over the winter so they are ready to fight come spring!