Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THERE is wildlife in one form or other all around us and that even includes a car park at one level with its limited amount, up to say open woodland with a pond which will have an abundance of wildlife. Somewhere in between we can include our gardens.
The term ‘habitat’ is used too loosely and usually refers to a place which humans have classified as important for wildlife, whereas the term actually includes all areas where animals and plants live and, therefore, we are surrounded by habitats of all types, including the above mentioned car park.
There is an almost constant strain in the media and elsewhere of the danger of habitat loss and there is no need for me to add to that but some people feel helpless and tell me what can we do that will make any difference as the vast majority of this loss is outside our control and on a vast scale. The simple answer is by small-scale victories where you can grow as wide a variety of plants as possible that will give you pleasure as well as being a big benefit to wildlife.
There is an added dimension to gardening which is often overlooked and that is by getting down to base level and discovering what is there. You might remember the fun of ‘Rock Pooling’ which is heading down to the beach at low tide and seeing the wildlife in the small pools, well, the same can be had by just lying on the ground and observing the wildlife or for something different you could install a small pond at home, add a few marginal plants and, within a short time, wildlife will find it and settle in.
If you take it to the simplest level you already know that many plants grow themselves and bees, butterflies and other insects will find them when they flower. Wildlife gardens can be untidy or manicured and still be of equal importance and interest for wildlife. Without going into statistics a garden with a mixture of native type plants and cultivated varieties usually contains the greatest number of wildlife species in a given area.
Plants are the base of the food chain on which everything else in dependent and, to grow, they obtain their energy from the sun. Plants are then eaten or used by a mad amount of insects which are in turn eaten by birds and other animals and, for our needs, farm animals eat plant based foods and are in turn eaten or used by us humans. We also eat plant foods, are adaptable and used our brain, and as a consequence we have come out on top to be the dominant race.
In a strange way we have also come full circle and it all boils down to having a garden full of varied plants (native and exotic) for our needs and enjoyment, while at the same time helping wildlife by creating a diverse and varied habitat. In this way, by growing a mixture of vegetables, fruit and flowers (trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals etc) and including a small pond or water reservoir, we can tick all the boxes and know we are doing our bit without too much trouble.
TIP OF THE WEEK
At this time of year I do not go to too much trouble sowing some fast maturing edible salads. I just scatter a few seeds here and there in containers or the ground anywhere in the garden, where I gather them up as needed for a light meal. The seeds I sow in this way include carrot Sugarsnax 54F1, rocket, radish and salad leaves of all types like spicy, oriental, salad bowl and ‘Lolla Rossa’. If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me on 051 384273 or [email protected] and if of general interest I will include it in a future article.