When it comes to turning green space into wild space the secret is to do less; less mowing, less pruning and less tidying. Undisturbed areas play host to all sorts of invertebrates and the protein in these is enough to start a Song Thrush singing for his supper.
We as a nation tend to prune our hedges within an inch of their lives. Often before they’ve even had chance to fruit. These fruits are free food for our feathered friends and the insects some of the native shrubs host also provide protein and moisture – again…free food! Dense shrubs offer shade and cover for a host of insects and, again, ground-feeding birds such as thrushes, Chaffinches and Dunnocks love sifting and foraging for grubs and insects.
Talking of pruning, what’s the average life expectancy of a bed of nettles in gardens? And yet to nature the humble nettle patch is a splendid bed of native wild plants. They grow for free – they don’t look that bad really, do they? In fact they can be quite pretty when they flower, and they can look even prettier when they are visited by some of the most colourful butterflies, who actually depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae. Butterflies like the Red Admiral, the Peacock and the unmistakable Small Tortoiseshell. What if we just left a small patch for them…somewhere behind the shed perhaps, or at the side of the garage?
We can even open a hotel in our gardens for free and nurture nature with a first class, open all hours bug hotel. Opening an insect hotel attracts the pollinators and the pest-controllers; Ladybirds are the classic example as they'll judiciously repay a wildlife gardener's good intentions by eating aphids off their prize-winning Rambling Rector or any number of rose varieties. Now this one actually costs nothing, saves money and helps protect the environment as no chemical sprays are required.
The biodiversity of our garden space is very much like the stock market – our investment in it and its wild occupants can just as easily go up as it can go down. In other words, the variety of different types of life can be many or it can be few, depending on how clinical we treat nature’s space. Our gardens are the ecosystem – nature will try to make it its home, it has little choice in that thanks largely to the way we run our planet. Each creature has its part to play; some parts are played in glowing technicolour – like the swashbuckling Great Spotted Woodpecker. Other players strut and fret their hour in a much more humble and unnoticeable way and yet they, too, are part of the biodiversity family.
As the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity poster says, we are all connected. Let’s conserve our garden’s biodiversity now, and we can do that (in many cases) for free.