keeping the future ... shades of green
Wildlife Friendly Gardens
How you can help restore the natural balance
As you may have read in the Wildlife
Files Discovery Part One 60% of the British and European
wild bird population has disappeared in the last 25 years.
How do you see your garden?
Neat and tidy gardens
can be environmentally unfriendly places. Some of us treat them like an
extension of the inside of our home - the flowers in sterile beds are
like ornaments on dusted shelves, while the manicured lawn represents
the neat vacuumed carpet. Regimented arrangements of one colour co-ordinated
plants won't attract a natural mix of insect species. To top it all, fads
and fashions of slabs, shingle and decking are bleak, unapproachable terrain
for garden visitors.
But before VeggieGlobal
guides you on your way to creating a wildlife garden you must first unravel
any preconceived ideas of what makes a garden look "nice" and
to understand that a wildlife garden creates its own vistas ... and it's
not about you contriving garden views that you want to see from the windows
of your house. If your garden is already an overgrown "forest"
then the first thing to do is certainly NOT grab a saw and a fork and
begin to cut it all down. All the plants, trees and shrubbery have grown
in your "neglected" garden in a complex, natural manner of self-selection
and often partnered themselves with corresponding plants which reciprocally
help in maintaining a disease and infestation-free existence. Have you
ever seen an insect or disease infected tree or shrub in a natural wild
area? Probably never. If you have a next door neighbours who treat their
garden like an an extension of their neat and tidy living room, then you'll
probably hear a constant stream of moaning from the other side of your
fence about shrubs and trees dying from disease and aphids. In which case,
your neighbours are the kind of ignorant and often stubborn gardeners
who will never listen to the facts, that by constantly blasting their
garden full of pesticides and digging up anything that looks "foreign"
amongst their manicured flower beds, they will always suffer from sick
plants and trees. These types of people will often even sterilize their
soil with antiseptic after a shrub has died ... a smell that lingers across
neighbourhoods for days after its application.
If your present back yard / garden is nothing more than a lifeless pile of flat earth, concrete, or short patchy grass, then you will need to create ... or at least kick-start your wildlife garden into action. You will in effect be helping to reintroduce the growth of plants, grasses and trees which would most likely have originally resided there before humans destroyed it. The following pages should now help you begin to add natural life back to your neighbourhood.
Building up the Partnership with your garden.
As we've mentioned,
as a wildlife gardener you should consider yourself in partnership with
your garden, rather than its controller. As a partner, you will begin
to learn and appreciate the subtle balance between your actions and the
growth and survival of the plant and animal life surrounding you.
Natural ground coverage
is important in your garden so leave plants to decay and rot down after
flowering. Without decaying foliage such as fallen leaves and long grassy
areas, the ground cannot regenerate its nutrients or sustain important
insect life. If left, the seeds of dead flowers, also provide food for
bird life. But since humans have destroyed so much of their natural food
source, wild birds are now more dependent on us for food than ever before.
So whenever possible leave out bird seed and grain, crushed peanuts etc.
(not bread as this can choke and kill baby birds).
But once you begin feeding your local bird life, keep it up. They will depend on your offerings to rear their young... helping to expand the interdependent circle of life, which over a couple of years will help increase your local bird population. Every bit helps.
As mentioned, gardens without natural wildlife areas are most likely to have problems with disease. In time, a naturally balanced garden will sort out its own problems. Wild areas, and particularly ponds will attract and bring to life an abundance of creatures and wild flowers capable of restoring some ecological balance to your garden.
Birds, hedgehogs, frogs toads, newts and insects alike all play host at keeping everything in order. They are nature's gardeners and do a far better job preserving your flora than any chemicals or over-tidy human gardener. And most importantly our suburban wildlife will begin to have enough native food to feed themselves and their young. Also remember that slug pellets WILL kill hedgehogs and other animals who feed on slugs. Let the hedgehogs survive and they will dispose of slugs, since they are part of our prickly friends diet. If you need to remove slugs then the most effective method is to occasionally go around at night removing them with a gloved hand or spade.
Note: If you've seen the articles in the Looking-Glass Global News section you may have read that the world amphibian population is rapidly declining - close to mass extinction. This is through both destruction of their habitats (like garden ponds and wetlands), but also through a fungal disease (not dangerous to humans). If you have frogs or toads, do everything possible to help with their survival (see part 2)
Pesticides are just
not necessary. Even if you loose a few of your plants in the first year
or two, your garden will settle into a balanced and healthier
environment in the future, whereby you will never need to use any damaging
Hedges and hedgerows are home to a huge diversity of animals, birds and insects. If you have to trim hedges then only do so outside of the nesting season (UK nesting season is between beginning of March and end of September). Never tidy up underneath hedges. The ground coverage provides habitats for small creatures and insects - and decaying vegetation nourishes the soil to enable healthy shrub regeneration. Some of our rarest wildlife has its home in our hedgerows like the dormouse for example. Rare butterflies also lay their eggs in hedges. So always treat hedges with respect.
Although cats are wonderful companion pets, cats and garden wildlife simply don't mix. Their natural instinct drives them to catch birds and small mammals, regardless of whether they are hungry or not. If you have recently moved to a house where there is an abundance of garden wildlife, you are strongly advised to refrain from introducing a cat into the environment. In fact, it is estimated that in the UK 300 million wild birds and mammals are killed by cats every year. If you already own a cat it is very important that you keep them indoors at night as this simple action will help to protect your garden wildlife from prowling cats late at night and at dawn.
So, to summarize this introduction when exploring wildlife gardening:
FOOTNOTE: The current trend of tacky
home and garden improvement TV shows does nothing to help matters. Pampering
to suburbanites with wads of spare cash to burn, by ripping up their house
and garden - and replacing it with a symmetry of slabs and railway sleepers
- plus a bucket of stones from Brighton beach thrown in to enhance the
Read Wildlife Files Part One: Where have All the Birds Gone? - Tales of a Garden Wonderland - Armchair Tree People
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