Go wild and simply let it grow in the garden to support bugs, bees and butterflies!

Benefits of a wild patch in your garden Picture: Sheila Meades

Benefits of a wild patch in your garden Picture: Sheila Meades - Credit: Archant

Have you got a corner in your garden that you don’t know what to do with?

We’ve got one tucked away behind the greenhouse between the fence and a newly-planted plum tree. I usually put spare annuals there but they rarely thrive because it’s in the shade for most of the day. So this year, after reading about the wildlife benefits of being less tidy in our gardens, I realised how I could solve the problem. Just let it go wild!

My research told me that the secret to helping wildlife in this way is to grow native plants then, at this time of year, let everything gently decay. Plant materials, leaf litter and rotting wood offer food and rich habitats for thousands of different organisms. Flowers and seed heads, often those considered to be weeds, provide useful areas for wildlife to feed and shelter.

I was starting with a good foundation. Through neglect there were already plenty of shade-loving beneficial plants; foxgloves, nettles, red campion, forget-me-not, lunaria (honesty) and cow parsley. To increase the range of plants still further, I sowed two native species, ragged robin and lesser knapweed.

In the spring I sowed borage which has been covered in bees and hoverflies all summer and provided a huge benefit for me as the pretty blue flowers look lovely in a glass of Pimms.

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I moved some pulmonaria (lungwort) from elsewhere in the garden as we had plenty of spares. This plant flowers in early spring, providing an important nectar source at a time of year when there are limited supplies.

I grew teasels from seed last year. They are biennials so didn’t flower until this year but there’s now several plants standing guard over the new wild corner. I love these architectural plants (apart from the spiky stems!) and so do the bees who have been collecting nectar all summer. I’m looking forward to watching the goldfinches and other seed-feeding birds feasting on the seed heads.

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My instinct has always been to keep a distance from nettles and to remove them from the garden but, having read about the many uses of the plant, I’m now a convert. Even a small patch of nettles provides an important food and shelter source for many species of insect including spiders. Over the summer I’ve seen ladybirds, shield bugs and hoverflies on the nettles and I’ve noticed that something has been eating the leaves.

This is because they provide food for the hungry caterpillars of butterflies and moths including red admiral, tortoiseshell, painted lady and peacock. We know that numbers of moths and butterflies have declined nationally so it is important to take whatever steps we can to increase their populations.

I’ve left all the seed heads in place as they have several benefits; increasing the number of future plants, providing food for birds in the form of seeds and making dry plant stalks available for insects to take shelter. I won’t completely neglect this corner of the garden otherwise it will be taken over by creeping buttercup and green alkanet, crowding out the other beneficial plants. The nettles need to be controlled too otherwise we won’t be able to access the water butt by the greenhouse.

So why not see if there’s space in your garden to let things grow a little wild. It only needs to be a small area; just leaving the odd native plant or a few nettles is a good start. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a whole range of creatures will seek it out.

But it’s not all about the wildlife; make sure you take time for yourself to enjoy what you see and experience and be satisfied in the knowledge that you are helping to reverse the decline in insect numbers.

Do get in touch to let us know what steps you are taking to increase biodiversity in the Sid Valley.

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