It’s World Environment Day on June 5th and it will be the 50th since it began in 1973, led by the United Nations Environment Programme. The theme this year is biodiversity and, being guilty of focussing mainly on growing edible fruits and vegetables in my garden, this year am adding plenty of wildflowers to support the pollinators to do what they do best.
I thought I’d do a little research and found out that 60-80% of the world’s flowering plants rely on animals to pollinate them; this includes the food crops that we rely on. Wildflowers are an important source of food for bees, butterflies, wasps and other pollinators and so the more there are, the more diversity there is amongst the many species they support. In supporting this insect population we in turn support the animals that feed on these insects and this also keeps the number of insects that attack crops in check.
Wildflowers support soil health too, helping to absorb rainfall and prevent the impact of flooding and finally, they’re just really lovely and calming to look at. I have a few favourite meadows near where we live that I like to visit. They are full of wildflowers and life with plenty of butterflies, bees and beauty! These places instantly chill me out and there is plenty of scientific evidence out there proving the healing power of nature…but that’s for another blog.
So, for this blog for World Environment Day I have decided to look at how we can improve some of the things in our space at home to help provide for our pollinators and make a pledge going forward.
As I mentioned, we have added many more flowers like calendula, nasturtium, salvia hot lips, jasmine and sown some wildflower seed mixes. I’m looking forward to seeing these in full bloom. We already have a row of lavender that attracts lots of bees each year so I have continued to nurture that and keep it healthy. It’s just about to come into flower.
Plant native species and wildflowers
The reason that native plants (e.g. Forget Me Nots, right) are so beneficial to biodiversity is that they have developed alongside our native insects. Some species favour these native flowers so it’s important to have them around. As they are native they are used to the conditions and so are easier to grow too and have more resilience.
It is vitally important to increase the amount of wildflowers in the UK. Since the 1930s, we’ve lost 97% of UK wildflower meadows, due to intensive farming methods and land development for property. (ref: Why wildflowers matter | Grow Wild | Kew) but our food supply depends on our food crops being pollinated and wildflowers supply food for these pollinators.
Avoid pesticide use
I don’t use any pesticides in the garden anyway so consequently over the years I have tried numerous strategies to limit the damage caused by slugs, snails, caterpillars and sawfly. I cover some of my plants with chicken wire that I reuse, I spread coffee grains .around the base of some plants, I trap slugs by leaving out grapefruit skins and relocating those that gather underneath. I plant sacrificial plants to distract (See Calendula, left)….and sometimes I just have to surrender my plants to nature!
Some insecticides available in garden centres contain neonicotinoids which kill bees so if you are using them but don’t want to harm the bee population then check your label and consider other options.
Allow weeds to grow
'Weeds’ are just as valid as all of the intentional flowers to pollinators and so, whilst I do usually pull up most that grow between flags on the path, we have left some to reach their full potential and, at the moment, they are the only flowering plants in the garden and so great at providing food early in the season.
Herb Robert (left)
Herb-Robert is a source of nectar for many insects including bees, hoverflies and the barred carpet moth.
Daisies are popular with many pollinating insects.
Set up a bug hotel
Bug hotels offer a home and a hideaway for insects like woodlice, solitary bees and ladybirds. I was gifted one last year which I have positioned a metre high against a south facing wall as I have read that this is the preferred position for solitary bees. They like the hollow bamboo canes... although I find that spiders do too!
So there we go, that’s my pledge in a way, for World Environment Day: I will continue to implement changes wherever I have the power to do so to help to support our insect population.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog. If you have any more suggestions or want to share your own pledges, I’d love to hear them.