Even though I’ve worked for Ulster Wildlife for many years and I’m passionate about helping local nature, I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as naturally ‘green-fingered’.
My first house was a tiny terrace with a concrete yard in the middle of the town and I’ve concentrated more on the interior than the exterior of my current house since moving around five years ago. Developing our campaign, ‘Let Nature In’ has inspired me to take stock of my garden and do what I can at home to help nature’s recovery.
Sadly, 1 in 10 species in Northern Ireland are at risk of extinction with many more in a vulnerable state. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We can turn things around before it’s too late - nature is capable of extraordinary recovery, if we act now. And our gardens have the potential to have a significant positive impact on our nature crisis.
Our gardens can become part of a wild network, creating vital green corridors and stepping stones that connect to larger wild spaces. I love the idea that my garden could be that crucial piece of the jigsaw that, for example, allows a tired and hungry bumblebee to fill up on nectar before heading on to its next pitstop. Or provides an easy meal for mum and dad Blue Tit while they’re spending their day hunting insects for their brood.
Research published in February 2021 by Bristol University has showed how important gardens are for pollinating insects. Their research results showed, “three gardens generated daily on average around a teaspoon of nectar, the unique sugar-rich liquid found in flowers which pollinators drink for energy. While a teaspoon may not sound much to humans, it’s the equivalent to more than a tonne to an adult human and enough to fuel thousands of flying bees.”
So imagine if lots of us knew a bit more about what plants we should put in our flowerbeds, hanging baskets and window boxes to help bees and butterflies; and collectively the impact this small change could make for nature.
Currently my garden is fairly typical of most suburban ones. Hedges – some with Holly and Hawthorn but some the ubiquitous Leylandii hedge, an area of green lawn and some paved patio areas. Up to this point, my main concern has been keeping it low maintenance while I concentrated on upgrading the indoors, but no more! This year I’m going to step up to the challenge and let more nature into my garden.
My first project is going to be bringing my lawn to life. Wildflower lawns can provide flowers full of nectar and pollen that help to sustain our pollinators such as butterflies, bees, moths and flies. Cover created by the vegetation is also used by spiders, beetles, ladybirds and a whole range of insects. And it’s not just the little minibeasts that will benefit from wildflowers in your garden, birds will too. The area will create a foraging/hunting ground for different species of bird to feast on things like insects and seed heads.