by Michael McGarr
Environmental issues are top of the news agenda at the moment, and the recent State of Nature report really hammered home how perilously the UK’s fragile ecology was faring.
This article I read on the BBC stated that:
– In the UK, one in seven species are threatened with extinction
– 41% of UK species specified have declined since 1970.
– one in five plants are at risk of extinction
– wildflowers have been lost at the rate of one species per year since the 1950s.
These facts and figures are horrifying and I just hope that our Government will take heed of this report before it’s all too late.
We can all make a difference in our gardens
However, the easiest and quickest places where we can all help wildlife and the environment is in our gardens. The UK’s gardens combined covers an area that is larger than the Lake District and the Peak District put together – so that proves that collectively we can all make a difference.
We always design ecological features into our gardens, but you certainly don’t need a garden designer to do this for you. You can read more about how we design gardens to include the wildlife that already lives there, from this previous blog post:
Here’s my top six easiest ways you can be wildlife and environmentally-conscious in your own garden
- Make a compost bin
Compost bins are amazing! Why throw all that food waste away when you could be letting it create the most fantastic beautiful crumbly garden compost for your plants. Even if you don’t grow vegetables, you can put it around your shrubs in the autumn to create a mulch over winter, where the worms will pull all those nutrients down into the soil for you. You can also mix a little garden compost into your houseplants whenever you re-pot them away for a brilliant boost of nutrients.
You can also buy really lovely slatted wooden compost bins which are a little more expensive than the plastic bin-types, but of course, far more environmentally friendly.
Also, by reducing the amount of kitchen waste going into your wheelie bin, you’re also reducing landfill AND you’ll soon see that your general waste bin will have loads more space in it.
- Create a small pond
I read that if you do just one thing for wildlife in your garden, then make a pond. It does not have to be a huge pond – I’ve even used a small basin at one point just to create a small pool for wildlife.
If you create a space for a pond in your garden, then the wildlife will come. And if you encourage frogs and toads to your garden, then you won’t have to worry about slugs eating your flowers and vegetables.
Make sure you add some plants around the outside of the pond or basin, as well as some stones or small logs to create habitat for insects and other animals, as well as enabling them to get in and out of the pond.
Image: This CorTen steel water bowl was used in our award-winning show garden for RHS Tatton in 2016 and proves that wildlife water features need not be messy or ugly. They could be as beautiful as this! Copyright: Warnes McGarr & Co.
- Avoid metaldehyde slug pellets
In December 2018, it was announced by Defra that metaldehyde slug pellets were going to be banned from being sold in the UK for residential gardens. However, after a legal challenge by a manufacturer this ban was sadly over-turned by the High Court in August.
Metaldehyde pellets are a poison that gets in our water courses, as well as poisoning birds, frogs and hedgehogs which can eat the pellets, as well as feeding on the slugs and snails who are consuming the pellets.
There are plenty of alternative methods to try to combat slug and snail damage that don’t affect a whole food chain, and our own water supply. And if you do use these slug pellets, then it’s pointless to try to encourage more wildlife into your garden where there is a chance the pellets could kill them.
- Stop tidying up the garden
We must resist the urge to tidy up our gardens! Nature has been designed as the most perfect life cycle, so be over-tidying, we can accidentally tip the balance. Leave seed heads on your plants and flowers for the birds and insects to feed on over winter. Leaves can be swept up off the lawn, but you can either put them into your compost bin, spread them as a mulch over your borders or put them in a bin bag to make leaf mould for next year. Twigs and sticks can be picked up and put in a pile to create a mini beetle and insect home. I also create small piles of old bricks or logs dotted around the garden to create little hidey holes for any creatures that might need them.
- Plant some edibles.
We love planning edibles into any garden design. Not only are they stunning, but also incredibly environmentally-friendly and loved by wildlife too. Imagine every time you go to the supermarket to buy a plastic punnet of over-priced raspberries. Maybe you’d do this every week in the summer? Think about the transport miles those raspberries have travelled, as well as all the plastic packaging that’s involved. You could provide yourself with raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and other berries across summer and autumn with just a few canes and bushes.
- Plant a small tree
We always design a number of trees into our garden designs because they add height and structure, but they are also amazing ways to bring more wildlife to your garden, as well as being great for the environment.
We love the multi-stemmed Himalayan birch tree (Betula utilis jacquemontii) with its beautiful peeling white bark. Or maybe try the Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarckii) which has gorgeous white flowers in spring and the dark berries in autumn which are loved by birds.
If you want to incorporate wildlife planting and design into a high-end luxury garden then please give us a call for a chat on 01257 696 012.