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Gardening with Wildlife
20th June 2022
Once upon a time, sheds up and down the land were packed to the rafters with chemicals set to control every facet in our gardens. Decades later, the trend moved to ‘outdoor rooms’, where decks, patios and exotic lighting became the vogue. Thankfully (for wildlife at least), the trend today is to encourage wildlife back into the garden.
While I appreciate, I’m no longer viewed as some sort of weird basket weaving, tree hugging, nature freak. It delights me that nature is back on the agenda. Having spent years needing to explain ‘why’ I ran a garden wildlife business; ‘how can we help’ is a much easier conversation to hold. However, I do have a slight concern about the human psyche’s take on gardening for wildlife.
Over our short evolutionary time on the planet, us humans have done remarkable things. In fact, we’ve changed over 70% of the earth’s ice-free land surface already. Pretty remarkable, if a little scary. But that part of our brain that makes us so clever, seems to demand we control our environment. It feels to me we’re unintentionally applying our need for control, even while trying to help wildlife in our gardens.
Before writing this blog, I was browsing some websites and looking at book titles. What I found were a series of instructions on how to make, create and (it felt like) master wildlife: Wildlife Gardens, Wildlife Gardening, The Wildlife Gardener, Rewild Your Garden, The Garden Jungle, Planting for Wildlife and so on. It reads like we have the choice between a garden for humans or, a garden for wildlife, never the twain shall meet.
I don’t see it that way. I’ve always gardened with wildlife, and we all get along jolly well together. My kids, wife, dog, birds, hedgehogs, foxes, bees, frogs, slugs, snails, and a myriad of mini beasts all happily share the same space. I mow, I dig, I grow veg, flowers and fruit, feed my birds and make lots of habitats. And I still get to eat more strawberries than the birds do.
So, I’d like to propose a new movement for the nation – Gardening with Wildlife. The rules are simple, tinker, relax, and enjoy. That’s all.
Be willing to embrace the natural chaos of competing characters in the garden, make our wants equal, not above (or below) that of wildlife. You want a neat lawn, have one. Starlings love short grass, like it long? So do grasshoppers and moths. Bees and butterflies share our passion for sweet smelling colourful flowers, and oodles of creatures, not just plants, will gulp down any water you put out.
Share your garden, express yourself but don’t conform because there are no rules. Formal, unkempt, gnomes or not, it’s all good. If there needs to be a rule, make it this: carefully dispose of that chemical arsenal in the shed. It’s no longer needed, as us clever humans have come up with brilliant new safe solutions to productively garden with wildlife.