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Chelsea Flower Show 2023 well being & biodiversity

Wildlife in a small back garden

This year at Chelsea the spotlight shines on ways that gardening and gardens can contribute positively to our health and well-being, as well as to help the environment. In this post, we focus on examples of small, step changes you can make to support biodiversity in your own garden, which can all help to make a positive, knock-on impact on our environment.

This blog post has been written in collaboration with fellow garden designers Helen Taylor and Camilla Grayley.   We pulled together some garden ideas for an article in the Yorkshire Post (Saturday 27th May 2023).

The benefits of gardens on our well-being is well documented and Melissa Morton Garden Design explored this topic in a previous blog.  Here we will focus on ways in which you can boost biodiversity in your garden which can not only have a positive impact on the environment but also your well being.

Things you can do in your garden to promote biodiversity

  • Why not try “No mow May” or leave the lawn uncut for longer periods. Keeping the mower locked up for another month allows spring plants a chance to set seed before the first cutting, making for healthier, more diverse lawns.  This gives wild plants to get a foothold in May, to feed bees, butterflies and other pollinators through summer.
  • Add some wildflowers, bulbs into the grass to make it more attractive to insects and also to look at.
  • Don’t worry about keeping the garden too tidy, piles of leaves in autumn or rotting logs are great places for insects to make their home.
Nepeta plants attract butterflies and bees. The lilac-blue flowers have a long season of interest.

Planting for Pollinators

  • World Bee Day is 20th May.  This is a UN initiative, so it is a great time to think about planting for pollinators. Ideally choose a range of plants that flower from March until November.
  • Single flowering varieties (rather than doubles) are better for pollinating insects to reach the pollen.
  • Watch out for a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show for The Royal Entomological society.
  • Leave a shallow tray or saucer with pebbles with water out for bees to drink from, particularly if this summer gets as hot as last year.

Plastic!

  • Plant pot recycling schemes – look out for garden centres and nurseries that let you bring your plastic plant pots back. Some re-use the pots and some send them to be made into benches etc. If you’re not sure, just ask to raise awareness.
  • If you’re thinking about using artificial turf / plastic plants – take a moment to reconsider. Industry professionals including The Society of Garden Designers, The Landscape Institute and The Royal Horticultural Society, are currently leading a campaign to raise awareness of why these materials can be avoided.

Other sustainable factors

As well as biodiversity, we can also make a difference on the environment in the garden when we take a moment to think about soil, materials and water use.  Here’s some more ideas for you, and hopefully some practical ones you can implement.

Soils and going Peat Free

  • Look for peat free compost for potting containers and seek out plants that have been grown in peat free compost (more nurseries are starting to do this).
  • Mulch – products like Strulch (straw mulch) or on heavy clay soils Dalefoot Lakeland Gold made from potash-rich bracken, from the Lakeland fells.

Water is a precious resource

  • Add a water butt where water collects off surfaces eg house roof, shed or garden office. Not only does this mean you can use the rainwater for plants, but also helps to harvest rainwater, reducing the amount of water being released into the main sewer systems. This can cause problems during periods of flash flooding (SUDS)
  • Use rain water for indoor plants too and for cleaning containers/pots outside
  • Any water left from drinking water bottles (eg from kids sports) tip into garden containers or border soil outside rather than down the sink

Garden plants in containers

  • Small pots are higher maintenance – require more watering and feeding. ‘less is more’ and go for deeper pots where you can.  I usually aim for a minimum of 50cm high, allowing roots to go deeper.
  • Finish with any recycled gravel mulch to retain moisture

Sustainability around soil ● Soil is precious

  • Minimise removing soil from the garden ie throwing away any used / old compost or soil from containers
  • Any compost left over from seed sowing, potting on tip on borders rather than in the bin
  • When refreshing containers, any spent rooty compost can be tipped on the compost or a border corner hidden away
  • Avoid walking on soil, particularly when wet

Sustainability during garden renovations / transformation

  • Minimise removing materials to landfill
  • Repurpose materials where possible eg put old paving slabs can go under a shed, gravel can be reused to help drainage elsewhere
  • Find ways to avoid compaction of soil during construction, and retain existing topsoil on site where possible.

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