Isla Stubbs discusses three ways we can all make eco-friendly changes to our gardens.
Neat, regularly cut lawns date back to the 16th century, grown around castles and becoming more popular in the 17th century. We have a long relationship with lawns but is it time to finally say goodbye? There are many reasons we need to get rid of lawns; they reduce pollinating flower species and so result in diminishing insect populations; they’re expensive to upkeep, and, to be honest, it’s more effort than it’s worth. So here are three ways you can change your gardening techniques to become more sustainable.
Add a Pond
In the last century, 50% of ponds have been lost from the UK countryside, mainly due to draining land and land-use change. Of these remaining ponds, 80% are in poor conditions. Not only do ponds look lovely, they also act like a magnet for wildlife. Birds, frogs, toads and insects – they just can’t resist it, providing them with homes, breeding grounds, baths, food and a water supply. A man-made pond in your garden may even be better than one found in nature, as your garden is less likely to be affected by the run-off of farmlands or dirty streams. You can make a pond in a variety of ways, whether built into the ground, or using half of an old whiskey barrel like in my garden. To put it simply, just supply the water (and an easy exit if any creature falls in) – the wildlife will follow.
No Weed Killer/Herbicide
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them” – Eeyore (AA. Milne). Just because a quote comes from a children’s book doesn’t make it any less meaningful. Once you remove the word “weeds” from your vocabulary in exchange for flowers, you will not only save yourself time and effort, but you will also save the planet. Chemical herbicides not only pollute the soil but can also leach into streams and rivers killing aquatic life. As well as this, popular weed killers containing glyphosate have been found to kill bees by causing a loss of beneficial gut bacteria leading to deadly infections. As you may already know, bees are essential pollinators. 80% of all flowering plants are specialised for pollination by animals such as bees, supporting production of 87% of food crops worldwide. We need bees, and so we need to stop using herbicides. If you want to weed by hand then by all means go ahead, but these weeds are wildflowers, and will also bring along great benefits to the garden.
Wildflower areas are an easy, low-maintenance and cheap way to make your garden more sustainable. You don’t need fertilisers or regular upkeep, just sprinkle some native wildflower seeds over your grass and rake a little, the rain will take care of the rest. These can bring bright colours to your garden and look pretty, while still providing fantastic benefits for the environment! These will boost the populations of pollinating species by providing pollen and nectar, as well as increase the populations of those who eat these species, such as birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals.
Residential gardens in Great Britain take up over 500,000 hectares of land. That’s over twice the area of the Lake District! If everyone changed their gardening habitats for the better, we could truly change Britain’s levels of biodiversity.
About the Author: Isla Stubbs is in her second year of studying Environmental Science at the University of York.