Why you should let your garden run wild
25th September 2019
We explore the pros and cons of wild gardening
Just as music and fashion adapts to culture and society, as does gardening. The style of gardens we see today vary drastically from those of the 1960s when the contemporary community garden movement began, and today’s will certainly be outdated in the Space Age! Despite them being a place of solitude and escapism for many, gardens are intrinsically linked with the political and social climate; hosepipe bans, climate change and herbicide laws all affect what we grow. So in this era of climate change and species extinction, what can we do in our gardens to help? Many are saying, just let it grow. Wild gardens are becoming more and more popular, but how do they compare to kept gardens?
Let’s go wild!
The idea of letting nettles and weeds run wild might not sound particularly enticing but there is one major benefiter - wildlife. By increasing the amount of rule breakers in your garden, you will encourage copious amounts of wildlife, such as honey bees, bumblebees and butterflies. This in turn will benefit you because all of these pollinators will be helping your fruit and veg reach their full potential. Of course, you don’t have to rip up your entire garden and start all over again; you can begin with a small patch of your garden and go from there. Another environmental benefit of letting nature take over is the lack of lawn mower fumes. As you will be leaving everything (including grass) to grow at its heart’s content, you can put that jerry can of petrol away and enjoy a cup of tea instead. As you will not be painstakingly mowing and inspecting growth, you will have a lot more time on your hands. Arguably, this is the biggest personal benefit to letting your garden roam freely, especially for those who are busy with work and family. Having said this, we can’t forget the most obvious benefit: the beauty! Even if flowers aren’t your thing and you are much more of a fruit and veg lover, you cannot deny the fabulously feral Secret Garden aesthetic.
Keeping it clean
However, this wild style might not be for everyone and it is important to consider the drawbacks of letting go of the reins of your garden. The biggest potential problem is accidentally introducing non-native species, which can be detrimental to the environment, ecosystem and even your health. It is important to have a good knowledge of species native to your region, otherwise the invader may not grow at all, their flowers may not be compatible with pollinators in your area, or they will thrive at the expense of native plants, thus upsetting the delicate balance of the ecosystem. This problem is heightened by the fact that wild flowers often come in packets of mixed seeds, therefore a plant unknown to you may grow and could even be toxic. A way to avoid this problem is to have a thorough knowledge of native species (or ask an expert if you are unsure) and checking all of the species labelled on the back of mixed seed packets. Furthermore, if you enjoy spending as much time as possible in the garden, then letting it go wild may leave you twiddling your thumbs. To combat potential boredom, only incorporating a small wild area and maintaining the remainder of the garden may be the best solution. Of course, you might not want to have a wild garden because you simply do not like how it looks. This is an understandable point of view, especially as the flowers can just look like weeds when they are not in bloom. Alternatively, if you do some clever planting and forward thinking in terms of heights, you can cover up this spindly look until they are ready to burst into beauty.
How to Grow Outside the Box
If you are interested in giving in to your wild side then you may be wondering how to begin. If you already have a garden to work with, letting your grass grow long is an excellent place to start, as other flowers will pop up along side it and wildlife will start to reap the rewards. If you decide to start from scratch, then a poor patch of ground that hasn’t been cultivated recently is an ideal starting point. It’s important to check your soil; if it is too fertile for perennials, then cornfield annual mix may be a better option. You will then need to firm and rake the surface to make a seedbed and sow a mixture of wild grass and wild flower in autumn (unless you are on heavy clay, in which case wait until spring). The most important thing to remember, which might be counter-intuitive for most gardeners, is to not add manure or fertiliser, as this will cause excess vigour in the grass which will in turn swamp the flowers. If you are specifically interested in encouraging bees to your garden, Oxeye daisies, lavender and primroses are especially bee-friendly.
Even if you are the biggest advocate for a well-tended garden, experimenting with a little bit of gardening outside the lines can do a lot of good. So why not give it a go?
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