Wednesday, 29 August 2007

God’s gardeners

If you think that you do the gardening at your place – think again!

A good garden makes it easy for beneficial insects and animals to do a lot of good gardening too.

Hedgehogs chomp slugs. Song thrushes think snails are smashing. Frogs, newts and toads search tirelessly and without fuss, working beneath shrubs and seeking the dark corners of the garden for what our American friends would call ‘critters’.

We know of the great work done by bees pollinating our fruit bushes but wasps too are the gardeners’ friend, seeking out tasty aphids in the spring and early summer.

It is said that a great tit can collect 2000 caterpillars in a day to feed its young. Lawrence Hills, the founder of the organic gardening movement, also extolled the benefits of attracting birds to the garden in winter, to seek out aphid eggs on dormant rose and fruit bushes. The larvae of the crane fly or ‘daddy longlegs’ is the leatherjacket. These big fat grubs lie beneath the lawn, munching away at the roots. Starlings love leatherjackets!

Native ladybirds and delicate lacewings guzzle greenfly. Hoverflies too need all the help we can give them so that they can attack aphids.

It would be easy to overlook the work of the millions of minibeasts who turn garden and kitchen waste into compost or to neglect our friend the garden worm who works day and night to aerate the soil.

And love them or loath them – spiders are great insect eaters.

A part of my job is to make it easy for all of the other gardeners to do the work for me!

Plant ‘wildlife friendly’.

Choose plants that have simple flowers that insects will like - this beautiful sunflower is adored by hoverflies. Plant bushes that will give cover and food for birds.

Use native plants whenever possible.

Provide a pond and create shelter for amphibians – they adore piles of rotting sticks and logs made from your garden prunings.

Give yourself permission to be less tidy!

And organic is always the best way.

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