Keynsham Voice, March Column: We are a nation of Gardeners

In case you missed this months Keynsham Voice you can read our column here:

We are a nation of gardeners – there are an estimated 15 million gardens in the UK, which together cover a greater area than all the National nature reserves.

Gardening is fantastic for our health and wellbeing, and it supports our native plants and animals. We rely on this teeming biodiversity of life to provide us with food, fuel, and medicine. The way we manage our gardens has a huge impact on biodiversity.

Every garden is one small part of a patchwork, so the impact we make on wildlife is both individual and collective. Each garden provides a space for nature but many gardens together make an even bigger difference.

The right kind of impact comes from the sheer variety of habitats that gardens can offer; the shrubs and trees, perennials and annuals, mini-meadows, ponds, hedges or log piles.

Simply providing a habitat helps thriving populations remain buoyant, and offers a sanctuary for those species that are in decline.

Many of our garden species – bats, hedgehogs, house sparrows, and common frogs, for example – are becoming much less common. Other species that are in terminal decline are starlings, song thrushes, stag beetles, and bumblebees.

Making our gardens (and our local green spaces) more wildlife-friendly can provide a refuge for some of these species at threat, and supplement their more usual habitats like hedgerows and meadows which are also in decline.

Over the past 10 years the number of front gardens with gravel or paving instead of grass has tripled: that’s a quarter of all houses. It’s happening in Keynsham too.

Paving over gardens has consequences. Trees and plants absorb dust and provide a place for birds to nest and insects to feed. Paving increases the risk of flash flooding. Instead of grass and soil soaking up moisture, it runs off paving and overwhelms drainage systems.

Paving also absorbs heat in the day and releases it at night – something to bear in mind as our climate heats up.

The way we garden can make a huge difference to our local habitats, from leaving a small patch of lawn longer to digging up our crazy paving! As we head into spring, I for one will be committing to garden in a way that’s more wildlife friendly.

Published in Keynsham Voice, March 2016, www.keynshamvoice.co.uk

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