Set aside a wild patch in your garden - better to watch than the television!
- Credit: Denise Bickley
Cllr Denise Bickley writes for the Herald on behalf of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group
As a local Councillor, and chair of Sidmouth Town Council’s Environment Committee, a large part of what I care about is allowing nature to thrive.
I have been involved in the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group to help this aim. Looking after the environment as a council is no longer about just keeping it tidy and like many of my fellow councillors, and most people I speak to, I am against the use of chemicals and of the ‘scalping’ of lawns – I support a more sensitive approach.
Since World War II, 97% of the UK’s wildflower-rich grasslands have been wiped out due to intensive farming practices and urban development. During this time the number of pollinator species including of course bees has fallen steeply. Long gone are the days where a drive in the country results in a windscreen full of dead bugs – when was the last time you had to wash your number plate because of them? This is a really clear reminder of the decline, and it is very worrying since insects are vital for all ecosystems, supporting wildlife and humans. Without healthy ecosystems there is no clean air or water. Insects are vital for our food production as well as the beauty of our parks, gardens and countryside.
Did you know we have over 1,500 pollinating species in the UK? They range from bees to moths, butterflies, wasps, beetles and hoverflies, plus many more. Insects need a diverse source of nectar and pollen, all the way from February to September. So what can we do to help?
One of the best things we can do is literally nothing! After a very early cut (on a dry February day), try to leave as much of your lawn as possible until a late cut in Autumn. When you do cut it, be sure to remove the dead cuttings as they will simply feed the grass more and suppress the lovely wildflowers. Don't use chemicals that might harm wildlife and make your peace with ’weeds’. If you think people will judge you for having a messy garden, get a blue heart to show it is deliberate! Visit bluecampaignhub.com for more information.
The next thing is to plant pollinator-friendly, preferably native, wild flowers and flowering bushes. Kings Garden Centre, Sidmouth, will be able to help you with this, and they have kindly donated to Sidmouth Town Council over £6,000 worth of wildflower seeds to get us started! Half of the seeds are being given out at Sidmouth Primary School for the children to get planting.
The seeds can be planted out now where they are to flower – either in the ground (prepare it first by clearing and raking) or in a pot if you have less space.
While at the Garden Centre why not pick up some other native wildflower seeds too? Scattered in your beds and around trees they will make a riot of colour and smells that should last throughout the summer and some will reseed for years to come.
In the photo you can see my own small patch from last year and it was very popular with many different species of pollinator – better to watch than the television!
Take photos of the biodiversity you see in your garden and around the valley, and send them to the Biodiversity Group through the Facebook page, Instagram or email email@example.com
Also, when you drive past the verge opposite The Bowd, have a look and see what you can see. We have planted it up with Yellow Rattle, following the guidance from DCC’s Life On A Verge project, a seed that is known as the Meadow Maker, as it suppresses grasses and allows wildflowers to flourish. We will be surveying what changes happen there during the year, and hope to roll this out to other areas.