Alice, Animals, Conservation, Gardening, Organic, Wildlife

Bees are highly beneficial creatures, responsible for pollination an estimated 80% of the western diet. However, due to attack from the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their numbers have been in steady decline. British gardens cover a combined area estimated at over 10 million acres, and as agricultural land becomes less bountiful for pollinators, they are becoming increasingly important in conserving bees and the environment as a whole. So here are some eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you can use to help preserve pollinators and the planet.

eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees

Go wild

An immaculate garden is great for impressing the neighbours, but not so great for wildlife. To encourage bees and other wildlife, allow your garden to grow a little wild, with overgrown shrubs and climbers, leaves, and dead stems. It is a good idea to allow an area of your grass to grow long, which will allow wildflowers to grow and increase insect diversity. Allowing a few weeds to flourish also provides food for insects.

Choose open flowers

Bees need flowers to feed on the nectar, and how accessible the nectar makes a big difference. Open flowers such as daisies, or any set on a “bobble” such as thistles are perfect. Unhybridized species tend to be a richer source of pollen than elaborately-bred show blooms. Bees also love fruit trees, flowering trees, legumes, blackberries, and ivy. Growing a variety of species is also important for attracting a diverse range of wildlife.

Avoid chemical pesticides

Pesticides and insecticides can be highly efficient in disposing of unwanted pests, however, these chemicals do not discriminate, and will also destroy many beneficial organisms. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using copper rings or beer traps to deter slugs; covering plants with fleece or netting; and encouraging pest-eating animals such as birds and hedgehogs into your garden. Companion planting can also be highly effective. Garlic, dill, chives, borage, basil, and nasturtium are good pest deterrents, and planting spring onions near carrot plants can deter carrot fly.

Composting

Peat-based compost and synthetic fertilisers are damaging to the environment, as naturally-occurring peat bogs absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide, and the process of making synthetic fertilizers can emit CO2. Making your own compost is an eco-friendly alternative that has the added advantage of recycling your household waste. You can compost leaves and other foliage; grass and wood cuttings; dead plants and shrubs; leftover food such as vegetable peelings; and old newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Avoid any diseased plant parts, anything sprayed with pesticides, or pet waste. You can use a ready-made compost bin, create your own using a metal bin or plastic bag, or simply pile up the compost material. Composting is also great for wildlife as it enhances the bacterial and fungal life in your garden.

Eco-friendly water

Not only can a garden water supply be great for wild birds, but it is also important for bees. A garden pond is ideal, but otherwise, you could put out a bucket or tray filled with water. There are some great eco-friendly alternatives to lessen the demand on mains water. A water butt can store rainwater, which is great for watering plants as it is chemical-free, and it can also be used for filling your wildlife drinking area. Add rocks, or floating plants or wine corks to give bees a safe place to land. For watering plants, you can also purchase a greywater diverter to reuse water from your kitchen sink, showers, and baths.

Bee Hotels

Many species of bee are on the decline due to lack of suitable nesting areas, so a bee hotel is a great way to help bees in your garden. These handy homes provide a sheltered area for rainy days, along with purpose-built tubes for female bees to lay their eggs. You could even build your own bee hotel with bamboo canes. Place in a sunny area facing south to the south-east at least a metre off the ground, and watch as bees come to stay.

20th May is World Bee Day, so make sure to get involved and spread the word about the plight of garden bees. You can read more about bee conservation here. You can also let us know what eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you have been using on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

 

 

Alice, Cats, Insects, Mice & Rats, Pest Control, Slugs & Snails, Spiders

There’s no doubt about it: pests can be the bane of a gardener’s life. There’s nothing worse than growing the perfect crop of tomato plants, only to have them demolished by slugs and insects. Chemical pesticides can be highly effective at deterring and removing unwanted critters, however, these can be detrimental to the environment, and other beneficial wildlife. So here are some great eco-friendly pest control methods that can be equally effective.

eco-friendly pest control

Netting & Cloches

Pigeons, along with many species of insects, enjoy eating flowers and vegetable plants. Protective netting is a great way of keeping your plants safe and sound, however, there needs to be space between the net and the plant, otherwise, birds may land on the net and peck through it if they can. You can support your netting with bamboo canes or upturned pots, however, cloches and grow tunnels provide a ready-made safety system. This set of 3 Victorian Glass Bell Jar Cloches are a stylish way to protect growing plants.

Companion Planting

Companion planting involves growing your plants alongside other species that will disguise the vulnerable plants, or attract predatory insects that feed on pests. This is a great method of eco-friendly pest control, as it is harm-free, increases the biodiversity of your garden, and can also have other benefits such as improving taste and yields. Good companion plants for repelling unwanted insects include dill, fennel, allium, basil, coriander, and marigolds. Check out our full guide to companion planting here

Natural Sprays

Sprays have long been used to deter bugs from plants, however, there are plenty of eco-friendly natural alternatives to chemical pesticides. Spraying plants with water or a light soap solution can remove aphids, caterpillars, or similar insects from plants, and creating a herbal water spray from essential oils such as sage, thyme, basil, or rosemary can act as a repellent. You could also spray with a pepper or alcohol solution to deter pests.

Natural Predation 

Your garden can be a great place to support species of animal that are declining in the wild, and many of these creatures have the added benefit of ridding your garden of unwanted pests. Animals such as birds, hedgehogs, ladybirds, frogs, and lacewings are great at limiting numbers of common garden pests such as slugs and aphids. To encourage these critters into your garden, make them welcome by adding homes such as bird nest boxes, hedgehog houses, and ladybird towers. You can also add bird feeders, birdbaths, and leave out bowls of food and water for wild animals.

Organic Deterrents

Many organic substances are great for deterring unwanted pests, and are completely environmentally friendly! Many plant oils can be used as an insect deterrent, along with garlic- you can stick a clove next to your plants to drive unwanted pests away. Slugs do not like the sharp edges of eggshells, so surrounding plants with them can keep them safe from these pesky critters. Beer traps are also a common method of slug protection.

Ultrasonic Repellers

Ultrasonic repellers are a high-tech humane way of deterring a wide range of unwanted pests from your garden. These handy devices emit high-pitched noises that are beyond the range of human hearing but scare away other creatures. They can be used to keep larger creatures such as foxes, deer, and cats out of your garden, but can also be used in your house to deter pests such as spiders and mice. The Advanced Solar Mole Repeller emits low-frequency vibrations into the soil to deter moles from digging up your lawn, and the Advanced Rat and Mouse Repeller combine ultrasonic frequencies with electro-magnetic technology to keep your whole house free of rodents.

What eco-friendly pest control methods are you using? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

 

Animals, Bird Baths, Birds, Conservation, Current Issues, Gardens, How To, Megan, Organic, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

Rewilding Your Garden - Wild Flowers

What Is Rewilding?

Rewilding, simply put, is allowing your garden to be restored to its natural state. This in turn encourages more wildlife and wild plants to reside in your garden. Rewilding involves sitting back and letting your garden undergo natural processes it’s yearning for you to allow. Those who keep their gardens prim and proper may be baffled by this thought, but there is something beautiful in watching nature run its course and the outcome is something you will be sure to embrace.

Rewilding Your Garden - Butterflies

Why You Should Consider Rewilding Your Garden

There are many benefits to rewilding your garden. In a world that is constantly developing, rewilding will help nature recover from the destruction it is experiencing in the wider community. Experiencing a pocket of wild nature can do wonders for the mind and can improve health and wellbeing. Rewilding also encourages wildlife, from wild birds to rare insects, and allows them to flourish. More than half of wild species in the UK are in decline and 15% are threatened with extinction. Leaving nature to run wild in your garden will provide a space for biodiversity to blossom right in front of your eyes.

How to Start Rewilding Your Garden

Ditch the Chemicals

Many of the chemical pesticides, weed killers, slug pellets and fertilisers are incredibly harmful to the wildlife in the garden, especially insects. Bees for example, which human life depends on, are killed by contact pesticides. Ditching chemicals can do wonders for your health, the health of your garden and ultimately the wildlife population in the vicinity of your garden.

Weeds aren’t actually all that bad; stinging nettles, for example, provide a home for moths and butterflies. Many weeds protect and restore exposed or degraded soils. If you feel weeds are taking over and you can’t resist getting your hands dirty weeding, opt for a homemade, natural, organic weed killer.

For more tips on ditching chemicals in your garden, check out our post on organic gardening.

Rewilding Your Garden - Fish In Pond

Add Water

One of the best things you can do to increase biodiversity whilst rewilding your garden is to add water. It is after all what sustains life on earth, so it can do wonders for encouraging wildlife in your garden. You can go all out and add a pond to your garden if you wish, which offer a self-sustaining cycle of hydration. This in turn saves water – by building a pond you are allowing that part of your garden to self-water, alleviating the need to use more water. Over time your pond will be abundant with pond life such as frogs, newts, pond snails and damselflies.

If a pond is a bit ambitious for you, or you have a smaller garden, provide a smaller source of water such as a water fountain or bird bath. Running water attracts wildlife such as birds, rabbits & squirrels.

Rewilding Your Garden - Flower Meadow

Leave Your Lawn Be

Put that lawnmower away! Leaving your lawn to grow in abundance will encourage a diversity of grass and herb species. Many of these will flower – the dream of having a wildflower meadow right in your back garden is possible! Borders and paths can be kept neat by mowing and trimming, but be sure to keep the main bulk of your lawn to grow as wild as you dare. Leave cutting your meadows to late in the year. Goldfinches like to munch on the late seeds and meadow brown caterpillars feed on the long grass and hibernate underneath it.

Don’t Over-Plant

You may be tempted to aid in rewilding your garden by planting native plants, but it is best to be patient and wait until they start growing themselves. Seeing what species of flowers and trees pop up is much more exciting and will save you lots of money too. Species that naturally grow in your garden will also be a lot better suited to your soil than any plants you try to introduce yourself.

In conclusion, rewilding your garden can be an exciting and rewarding experience. We hope we’ve inspired you and left you wondering what could grow in your garden if you let it just be!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.