This year I reached the first rung on the housing ladder, buying a small garden flat in Cardiff. Having a garden was high on my tick list of necessities when looking for a property. As I am a country girl at heart, some outdoor space, however small, was essential.
I just have one major problem with my new garden… It comprises a small area of decking, some gravel, and a lawn of artificial turf. For many this would be a major plus– low maintenance and always looks good! (That’s is, if fake plastic grass is your idea of aesthetic beauty). But for an ecologist, it’s got to go. Back gardens should be a haven for urban wildlife, and yet the bird feeder I installed within the first week of moving in has not gone down an inch in six months. I have an abundance of slugs which literally obliterated my attempt at growing potatoes in sacks. Other than that the only wildlife I have seen near my garden is the magpie that nests in an adjoining garden and a bat foraging overhead. Once.
The estimated number of gardens in the UK varies depending on the source, but is generally given as around 15 or 16 million, and it is accepted that this adds up to a total area larger than all of our national parks, making gardens one of the most important resources for wildlife in the country. The “greying” of front gardens by paving over lawn to use as driveways has been a trend for many years, with a three-fold increase since 2005 (as noted in a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) study reported in the Financial Times). It seems as though artificial turf will be the next major threat to traditional gardens and the wildlife they support. In July of this year, The Guardian reported on how the growth of artificial lawns is impacting on our wildlife, citing one artificial lawn company recording a 220% growth in sales. I have seen at least three artificial turf garden makeovers on social media this year, and so it is not surprising to me that people gape in amazement when I say that I’m pulling the wretched stuff up.
This week (October 24th to 30th) is Wild About Gardens Week so it’s a perfect time to get some ideas for what to do with my blank canvas. The Wild About Gardens website gives great ideas and resources for creating a wildlife friendly garden. This year The Bat Conservation Trust have joined the RHS and
The Wildlife Trusts as authors of the initiative , so I have also referred back to some advice my colleague gave in our May blog post, to get some gardening tips to attract bats to my garden.
One idea I have been playing which I hope will attract wildlife, is to create a miniature wildflower meadow. This would be easy enough to do, seeing as I am starting with bare earth under the plastic, I would simply need to pull it up, sprinkle a wildflower seed mix over and wait for nature to do its thing. You can even buy turf that is “guaranteed to make an instant meadow”. Maintenance would be low – just one cut (making sure to remove the arisings) in late summer.
However, I want to make sure that I still have enough space to include the other features that I want, including a pond, and perhaps a small fruit tree – which will hopefully attract local birds to my currently desolate bird feeder!
For other ideas on how to introduce wildlife into your garden, check the Wild About Gardens website.