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Frances Tophill: Improve your garden’s biodiversity

29th April 2021

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Sowing and growing your own crops isn’t solely about the tasty harvest you get at the end, it’s also an opportunity to step away from screens and stress and get closer to nature. But, to really get closer to nature, you’ve got to make sure that your plots contribute positively to local biodiversity.

Biodiversity is a hugely important subject. The fine and ever-changing balance between wildlife, bugs, plants, humans and our climate dictates what we can grow and what species can survive in our area.

We sought out top tips from author and horticulturist, Frances Tophill and the experts at Weleda. They had loads of expert advice and important information on biodiversity and how to maintain and encourage it.

Frances said: “Making your garden more biodiverse means creating an environment that is not just about you and the plants you grow but encouraging all the world’s species into it too. That includes fungus, bacteria, insects, birds, even foxes. This can help support the whole ecosystem around us which we are custodians of when we garden.”

Frances’ top tips to encourage biodiversity in your garden include:

1. Introduce water into your garden, if you have water then you will see different life cycles of all types of insects start to appear

2. Grow some pollen rich flowers in your garden such as sunflowers or lavender. This will give those insects something to feed on. Once you have insects in your garden, then all the other wildlife will follow.

3. Include lots of hedging and planting corridors in and around the garden to allow small mammals and birds to safely move around. And cut little holes in the fences on either side of the garden so that hedgehogs can get in and out.

4. Make sure you have flowers for as much of the year as possible and choose varieties that produce fruits and berries. Include white, scented flowers that are at their best at night as that’s when pollinators like bats and moths are most active.

5. If you’re protecting your plants from pests, avoid using any chemicals that will poison lots of different species and work their way through the food chain, and always use netting that’s wildlife friendly - easy for flying insects to spot, with gaps no wider than 5mm so that nothing can get stuck halfway through

Jayn Sterland, Managing Director, Weleda UK & Ireland said: “It’s really exciting to see many of us now reconnecting with nature through gardening. We can all make a real difference in supporting our local biodiversity by becoming more green-fingered.

Biodiversity is the diversity of life in all its forms, and we are dependent on it to provide us with food, medicine, and raw materials. Since the 70s we’ve seen a decline of 68% in our wildlife, much of this due to habitat loss and since the 1930s we have lost a whopping 97% of our wildflower meadows resulting in one in five British wildflowers being at risk. Gardening and growing your own are great ways we can all support the diversity of life all around us, so we are encouraging everyone to care for nature through gardening.”

A fifth of Brits say doing their bit for the environment is their reason for growing their own produce and 18% say they noticed more ‘life’ in their garden since they started gardening. Brits are supporting the biodiversity of their green spaces by having a bird bath/feeder (38%), growing butterfly attracting flowers (37%), staying away from chemical pesticides (28%), and more than one in ten even leave areas of their lawn unmown to encourage more wildlife (12%).

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