In this blog we are exploring why biodiversity is so important and the benefits that can come from letting your garden run a little bit on the wild side. It is always a pleasure seeing birds, bees and insects enjoying your garden as much as you do. In addition, the added hidden benefit of biodiversity is to provide you with healthy, tasty, nutritious plants as well as a robust soil (see our last blog all about the importance of soil health.)
At Jekka’s we have always followed sustainable, environmentally friendly and organic approaches to growing culinary herb plants at the herb farm near Bristol, UK (read about our approach). This has resulted in a remarkable biodiversity at the herb farm. We are proud to have a variety of insects, bees and birds that keep our pest and disease to a minimum. For example, only this week have we seen a mass of ladybird larvae feasting on the blackfly, which we could have sprayed. These will then go on to form their part of our natural ecosystem.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life and encompasses all creatures, plants, animals, cells and bacteria. If you take a look at your flowering Thymes or Mints, you will see everything from tiny hoover flies to bumble bees. All forms of life are an important part of our gardens as they ensure the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem.
Why is biodiversity important?
Through the creation of a rich and diverse garden you, in turn, attract pollinators (check out Jekka’s guide to pollinators), provide shelter and a food source for all sorts of animals. In the network of your garden everything is connected; the soil feeds the plants, the plants feed the wildlife and this then feeds us. If we then compost our waste, the circle is complete. Everything relies upon something or someone else in order to function to its best ability, which is why we need to make our gardens, balconies or allotments, the healthiest places they can be.
The landscape has changed dramatically in the last several centuries. Humans have taken over many aspects of our countryside with detrimental results. This has caused numerous native animals to become close to extinction. As a result, your garden, regardless of how big, is more important than ever. They provide important habitats for those that have been driven out of their original homes. There are many important natural processes, such as soil formation, that depend on a broad spectrum of biodiversity in order to function and without them our gardens simply wouldn’t be the same. Not only are they important for wildlife, gardens are also important for people as a source of food, the purification of air and water and for our well-being. See our blog post on health and well-being in horticulture.
What about rewilding our herb gardens?
Whilst clean cut and manicured gardens are a popular look, there is much more emphasis nowadays to allow your garden to be a little bit messy, as it turns out this can have huge advantages. You don’t have to have a huge garden to make a sanctuary for wildlife; a pile of wood, stones, compost or bark in the corner of a garden or balcony can provide a habitat for many different insects, snakes and fungi. Water; whether it’s a pond or a feature as small as a bird bath is another way to bring new wildlife to your garden as water is a vital resource and we all depend upon it.
We are delighted to see Sir David Attenborough’s campaign to ‘rewild the world’ by creating more forests and becoming vegetarian to save the earth. Rewilding often refers to large scale landscape management and is intrinsically linked with improving the way we use our land and the way in which we farm.
Now we know more about what we can do on a small, local level to help increase the wildlife we see and create more habitats in order for us to co-exist in harmony. By allowing parts of your garden to grow ‘wild’ you are creating an environment that will welcome in all sorts of bugs, insects, birds and bees. All of these creatures are beneficial in some way (yes even those pesky pests!) as they all have their place in the food chain. Plants, woodlands and healthy soils all absorb huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere; the more plants we plant the more that we can do our bit to help tackle climate change.
A quote taken from rewilding Britain says:
“To rewild a garden is to look at the land from nature’s point of view, and allow nature to take the lead wherever possible. Every little patch of nature-rich habitat helps wildlife, especially if it links to other patches.”
Check out Jekka’s top 10 herbs for shade, sun, dry and damp conditions for some planting ideas.
Jekka’s tips to rewild your garden include:
- Take a break from mowing your lawn;
- Sow and grow wild flower and UK native herb plants;
- Grow perennials which will often provide a food or habitat source of some kind all year round;
- Allow your plants to go to seed to support birds and wildlife naturally;
- Feed your birds;
- Speak to your neighbours and council to wild your verges or include containers to develop natural corridors between your gardens and others;
- Introduce a water source such as pond or bird bath;
Jekka’s top 10 herbs to attract pollinators
To help you on your pollinating or re-wilding journey we have launched Jekka’s Wild Herb Seed Collection and Jekka’s UK Native Seed Collection, which contain some of Jekka's favourite pollinating herbs:
- Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
- Borage (Borago officinalis)
- Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Lavender Bee Happy (Lavandula 'Bee Happy’)
- Oregano 'Jekka's Beauty' (Origanum 'Jekka's Beauty')
- Rosemary Jekka’s Blue (Salvia rosmarinus 'Jekka's Blue')
- Thyme Bee Haven (Thymus ' Jekka's Bee Haven')
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
- Variegated buddleia mint (Mentha longifolia Buddleia Mint Group variegated (v))
Want to learn more?
We have just scratched the surface on why biodiversity and rewilding are so important not just for us as gardeners but the overall well-being of the planet. We strongly advocate starting in your garden and hope you will join us in growing a natural ecosystem. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, please check out our blogs on organic gardening and Jekka's tips to be a sustainable gardener. as well as Jekka’s Guide to UK Native Herbs.