August is a busy month in the garden, thankfully a lot of that is harvesting vegetables and cutting Dahlias. But I’m also thinking about the bigger picture of sustainable gardening, and how I can do more of it.
One of my goals is to improve the ecosystem in our garden, so as many plants, animals, and tiny creatures in the soil, all co-habit. This gives declining species with habitats under threat, a healthy place to exist. It also keeps the complex web of creatures in a garden in balance, so they all survive.
In the five years since we’ve lived here, I’ve planted lots more plants, including climbing plants and four trees.There’s also a compost heap now and a Willow hedge.
There is some evidence of improvement in the ecosystem here. The obvious being a wider range of birds. Slow-worms have appeared, hibernating during winter in the compost bin. They’re very welcome in this slug infested garden as they eat invertebrates. Protected by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it feels good to be giving them a safe haven.
I’m hoping that the masses of worms in the compost bin is an indicator of a good range of worms and insects. Take the lid off and it’s teeming with them.
A lot is down to supplying a diverse range of food and habitats, so here’s three tips for you:
Grow a wide range of plants
This is key to encouraging a wider range of wildlife in your garden. Choose flowers that provide nectar for bees, butterflies and small insects. Try to have flowering plants throughout the year, this can seem like a challenge in winter, but there are lots:
Sarcocca / Christmas Box
Lonicera fragrantissima / Winter Honeysuckle
Hellebores, especially this with single flowers rather than a ruff of petals.
Make a pond
it doesn’t have to be big, many birds prefer shallow water, a buried washing-up bowl would do well. Though plants or stones near the edge is essential, as an escape route for small things.
Grow big, structural plants
Hedges, ideally mixed ones, and trees, all provide food and habitats for those creature we want to attract into our gardens.
Start slowly, take small steps and things will gradually improve.
There’s still a way to go here. I’m sorry to say I haven’t installed any nesting boxes for birds yet. It’s easy to think about visible creatures like birds as a mark of success, but I also want the tinier ones found in the soil. And that’s more of a challenge.
Keep an eye out for more posts about sustainable gardening. I’ll post next week with more tips about sustaining a healthy garden eco-system.
A recent post to help with your sustainable garden, is about collecting and storing seeds from your garden
Keep well and enjoy your garden.
all photos: Jill Anderson.