Counting on … day 306

11th September 2022

Autumn is the best time to plant spring bulbs. Flowering from January onwards, these flowers are a real boon for insects looking for nectar, especially those that don’t hibernate or have come out of hibernation early. I am always surprised and amazed when I see bumblebees in January. 

Counting on …day 285

21st August 2022

Wildlife is also having to adapt to climate change – and will probably not always succeed because the change is happening too rapidly. In our small ways we can help by making sure our gardens are wildlife friendly – providing water for drinking and bathing, providing a variety of plants to ensure a food supply throughout the changing seasons, providing shelter and places to nest.

Counting on …day 264 

2nd August 2022

As plants shrivel and trees prematurely drop their leaves, we are seeing the damaging effects of climate change on our own environment. Periods of drought and heat waves are going to be an ongoing feature of daily life and something we need now to plan for. In our gardens it may be looking to see which plants are still surviving and which are suffering so that we know what to plant in the future. As we eke out water for our plants, it may be in setting up systems to collect grey water – even a bucket by the sink into which to our used washing up water. It may be in installing more water butts to,collect more water when it does rain. The  Mains to Rains project has more helpful suggestions –

 Counting on ….day 253

22nd July 2022

Whilst we may not be directly able to aid wild birds affected by avian flu -and which is devastating seabird colonies – we can help protect our garden birds from disease by ensuring we regularly clean birdbath and feeders. 

  Counting on …day 195

27th May 2022

“Pesticides are poisons and there should be no place for them on supermarkets shelves. We should not be using these chemicals in our gardens and allotments, where our children and pets play, and where our wildlife should be thriving. In any case there is no need for them – it is easy to garden without pesticides.” Professor Dave Goulson, University of Sussex

PAN UK believes that there should be a ban on selling glyphosate to the public and is leading a campaign to press supermarkets to stop selling pesticides in their stores. Both the Co-op and Waitrose no longer stock high risk synthetic pesticides.

safe to use?

For gardeners who wish to avoid using pesticides, PAN UK provides guidance on combating pests without the use of pesticides  –

Counting on …day 175 

7th May 2022 

According to the recent review, the  State of the World’s Birds, 48% of bird species populations are in decline, 39% are stable,  6% showing increases whilst a further 7% have unknown trends. The major cause of decline in bird populations is the growing footprint of human consumption. Alexander Lee, of the Metropolitan University Manchester and leader of the review, says that people should not feel helpless: “We all have connections [to birds]. If a company is associated with deforestation in Brazil, don’t buy stuff from them,” he said. “And if everyone spares as much land as possible within their gardens for nature, then that adds up to quite a large area. Another lever is voting – we get the politicians we vote for.”

The Green Tau: issue 39

4th April 2022

If gardens became nature reserves

Did you know that the ordinary domestic garden makes up one third of all green space in London? 

According to Greenspace Information for Greater London, GiGL roughly  47% of Greater London is ‘green’, of which 33% is natural habitats within open space and an additional 14% is estimated to be vegetated private, domestic garden land. This is not just true of London, but for the whole country. According to the RHA ‘Private garden space in Britain cover about 728,900 hectares so their potential as a haven for wildlife is considerable’.   If each garden were actively managed as a nature reserve just think what an impact that would have on biodiversity and environmental wellbeing!

Domestic gardens can offer a diversity of plants and micro habitats making them ideal environments for a wide diversity of insects and beetles, birds and other small creatures. 

A diverse range of plants can not only provide food and shelter for a great number of birds, insects and other creatures, they can also be chosen to provide a year round supply of blooms that ensure  constant supply of food for insects – and a good supply of insects will ensure food for other creatures further up the food chain.

A variety of height and density of plants and planting, including trees and bushes, climbers and creepers, ground cover and grasses will again meet the needs of diverse range of fauna. Areas of both shade and sun, warm hollows and places giving shelter from the wind will be appreciated. Further micro habitats can be provided with the addition of ponds or bog gardens, log piles and dry stone walls.

Encouraging wildlife is also about avoiding things that can cause damage such as pesticides, herbicides and slug pellets, and the use of peat which comes at the expense of peat bogs which are an exceedingly valuable habitat in their own right. 

Many creatures will need more than the space offered by one garden. Their normal habits maybe to move or roam over a wide area – hedgehogs for example can travel up to 2km as part of their nighttime forays. Whilst robins may guard one garden as their territory, other birds such as swallows, long tail tits, and jackdaws will feed across a much wider area. Gardens can act as corridors and stepping stones linking one garden to the next as well as linking into wider green spaces such as parks and commons. Small holes at ground level will allow hedgehogs to travel from one garden to the next, whilst trees, shrubs and climbers will provide safe stopping off places for small birds.

Gardens also benefit our own well being. The National Open Gardens Scheme identifies 5 ways in which we can benefit from our gardens –

  1. Do something (physical) – gardening itself, or playing, doing yoga, making a bug hotel, painting
  2. Do nothing! Spend time relaxing, just observing what’s there, de-stressing 
  3. Be alone – your garden can be an escape form the  demands of world and work. Find a quiet corner that is your personal retreat.
  4. Be sociable – share the garden with friends, chat over the fence, take tea together, eat meals outside, play games 
  5. Go natural – look at the shapes and colours, absorb the scents, feel the textures, listen to the sounds

For those without gardens, house plants can be equally beneficial and rewarding –

Gardens are places to grow food and make us aware of the journey from fork to plate. Growing food encourages us to eat more healthily. Growing your own salads, herbs and soft fruits can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of what you eat.

Gardens can also protect us from some of the effects of the climate crisis. Gardens with plenty of vegetation will add moisture to the air making it feel comfortable during hot weather and trees of course provide shade as do climbing plants trained over pergolas. Climbing plants can shade walls from the sun and keep the building cooler, whilst plants trained around windows can cast shade that cools the room inside.  Gardens are good at both absorbing rainwater especially if there plenty of soft areas – lawns, flowerbed and vegetable plots – rather than hard surfaces such as pavements, patios and compressed soil. Gardens with plenty of plants are good at slowing the rate at which water drains into the water table as leaves and roots trap and delay the rain. Longer grass is better in this respect than short grass, and will equally better withstand periods of drought. Both absorbing and delaying the rate of water  flow reduces the risk of flooding. You can even be proactive by emptying water butts in advance of heavy rainfall. 

Gardens are natural carbon sinks. Trees, plants and lawns all absorb carbon as they grow. So does a well tended soil. This is a soil that is not over worked or compacted but rather is well supplied with hummus that makes the soil home for a multitude of worms, beetles, bugs, bacteria and fungi, all busily absorbing carbon and releasing nutrients into the soil. Further ideas for reducing the carbon footprint of your garden include composting garden and uncooked vegetable food waste, recycling canes and flower pots etc, growing plants from seeds, and using hand rather than power tools – Or visit the RHS web site 

“When we garden, not only do we make the world a more beautiful place, we also improve local biodiversity, cool overheated cities, mop up pollution and mitigate against flooding, all while improving our own health and well-being, which together have been shown to directly determine how effectively our society functions. Plants are key solutions to pretty much every major problem that faces our species today.”

Count Down

Missing from yesterday! Action 35: Set aside part of your garden for wildlife. Climate  change places extra pressures on wildlife so give them a helping hand by encouraging wild plants (weeds) to colonise part of your garden. Nettles are very good for ladybirds and butterflies, dandelions flowers are good for bees and dandelion seeds are tasty food for goldfinches.

 Action 36: Make next week a vegan week. Stock up on beans and pulses, tofu and nuts, assorted types of rice and pasta. Make a shopping list with plenty of seasonal fruit and vegetables.  Add miso pastes, chutneys, yeast flakes and herbs for extra flavours. Plan some easy meals combinations.  Be inspired by new recipes – try these from Hodmedod :