Giving back to your garden

When we think of happiness, we often think happiness is something we find within ourselves. I do not disagree with this statement, but I do not completely agree with it either.

The reason being, working with plants and studying them has made me realise that we find happiness, specifically, peace, when we live in equilibrium, a world of giving and taking - symbiosis - a strategy plants and animals have utilised for millions of years.

Nature has provided humans with the resources, foods, and the correct nutrients ever since the dawn of time. Just as nature has provided for humankind, humankind must provide for animal and plant kind.

When growing your own, it is important we establish a garden filled with not only resources for ourselves and our aesthetic pleasure, but for our pollinators and native species as well. In order to do this, it is a good idea to incorporate habitat (animals homes) into your garden along with flowers (their food) and having untouched areas of your garden (to allow the natural native species come up).

We often hear environmentalists say we need to protect biodiversity”… but how can we do that? Having several different habitats in your garden contributes to protecting biodiversity as habitat (a place to live) is needed for the survival of certain species. This why it is a good idea to have shrubs growing, to leave areas of bare soil and have areas with small water resource as insects can burrow there and birds can nest and cool themselves down. By doing this, you not only ensure the animals' survival but contribute to the mechanism that brings food to your plate every day, pollination. The food industry (amongst many others) is heavily reliant on pollinators, and in the absence of pollinators many industries are forced to employ cheap labourers for manual pollination.

When you plant herbs in your garden such as thyme (Thymus vulgaris), basil (Ocimum basilicum) and mint (Mentha) you facilitate the attraction of pollinators. However, it is important when growing them to leave areas of the plant and allow them to flower (as hard as it is to resist using) so pollinators, such as butterflies, bees, hoverflies and small flies, can use it as a food source. All pollinators require different food sources and habitats, so it should be considered to use a range of species with different floral structures. For example, the hoverfly that eats garden pests, such as aphids, does not have a tongue or a long proboscis, unlike bees or butterflies and therefore require flowers where pollen or nectar is easily accessible.

Did you know, you can get free seeds to help support the development of your biodiverse garden whilst simultaneously attracting bees? Check out, JustBee or visit the British Bee Keeper Association for more information on biodiverse gardens and the process of attracting bees.

Here are some other species to plant to accommodate different pollinators:

  • Fennel – grow in a sunny area, well-drained soil
  • Myrtle – well sheltered, warm area with full sun
  • Foxglove – require more shade in hotter weather
  • Forget-me-not – sunny area, moist, well-drained soil
  • Lavender – full sun and poor or dry soil

NB Gardners tip: plant basil plants beside tomato plants as it can produce tastier tomatoes!

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.

- Albert Einstein

Contribution Francesca Farag