Wednesday, 25 June 2003

Gardening for wildlife

Until last weekend I was bewailing the lack of insects. But then my garden was full of them. Well not exactly the numbers of 50 years ago, but nonetheless some good numbers. It just goes to show how easy it is to garden for wildlife.

The insects in good numbers were bumblebees, and they were on the sage bushes and white clover. The sage had been planted in the herb garden, and the white clover was in an area of lawn that had been allowed to revert to ‘meadow’. Simply by not cutting this area, over a period of only two years, its species diversity has increased dramatically.

Unfortunately, one group of insects I have not seen in any great numbers is the short-horned grasshoppers. As a child I always remember grasshoppers abounding on the commons around London, and bush crickets were a real rarity. But now, living in the countryside, I see quite a lot of bush crickets, but very few grasshoppers. And despite seeing very few house martins and swallows earlier in the summer, this week the first broods have left the nest and are flying around – hopefully they will raise two or three broods this year if the fine weather continues.

It is always notable how the swifts and swallows gather over our garden – five acres of unsprayed garden and woodland in the midst of East Anglia provide a ready supply of insects. Very soon the dragonflies will be on the wing, and with any luck they should attract the odd hobby.
But if any one asks what they can do to encourage wildlife, the answer is very simple – go organic. Suburban gardens are among the last refuges for many species of wildlife, but they are also often sprayed more intensively than farmland.

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