A big part of my gardening ethos is about working with nature rather than against it. Imagine if you could harness the power of friendly plants and animals to boost your crops and help the planet at the same time. Well you can!
No, I don’t mean wear a grass skirt and dance round an effigy of Monty Don while singing ‘An English Country Garden’ (unless that’s your thing). I’m talking about leaving areas of your garden to go a bit wild and untidy. Why? Well let me put it like this: you know what the helpful bugs, bacteria and animals in your garden don’t like? Everything being super tidy.
If your patch looks like a show garden from Chelsea, hedgehogs, toads and other helpful organisms will give it a body swerve – there’s nothing for them to eat and nowhere for them to live.
So leave areas of your garden untidy – don’t rake all those leaves up, leave some nice piles of logs uncleared and ‘forget to cut’ parts of your grass. Your local wildlife will thank you by moving in.
Make Life Easy for Wasps
Everyone knows that bees are good for your garden. They are the star pollinators and get all the good press. Did you know though that wasps are the friend of gardeners too? Wasp grubs feed on caterpillars and other insects that eat your lovely veg, giving you more for the plate at the end of the season.
So how can you encourage these flying aces into your patch? One easy way is by leaving them alone. If wasps set up home in your garden, do you really need to call in pest control? If they’re not somewhere problematic, they’ll be quite happy working away if left well alone. I regularly get wasps living in my compost heap which definitely makes trips to empty the compost bin more exciting. Knowing these little fellas are doing good though is a worthwhile trade off.
Secondly, you could incorporate wildflower areas into your garden. An area of your lawn is ideal for this. Keep it long, sow wildflower seed if you like and watch the flying insects move in.
See Red (with Black Spots)
If you need a guardian to keep aphids off your veg, look no further than the humble ladybird. These lovely little bugs are greenfly serial killers, eating several thousand over their lifetimes and they’ll eat other pests too. In short, you want as many of these in your garden as possible.
So how can you encourage them in? Adult ladybirds will be attracted to flowers such as fennel and marigolds. They also seem to love hanging out in the leaves of my globe artichoke plants.
Work with Nature, Not Against It
Imagine if we were able to fully harness the power of nature in our gardens to make them more productive while creating a home for valuable insects and animals. That is a possibility if you put a bit of thought in and make your gardening as welcoming as possible.
Neil M White lives in Perthshire with his wife and three children. He has worked in horticulture as a landscape gardener and in a tree nursery. Now a ‘hobby’ gardener, he spends most of his time growing fruit or veg. Juggling gardening, family life and a day job, Neil also finds time to write – his latest book on gardening ‘The Self Provisioner’ was published in April 2020. Catch up with Neil on his Twitter feed.