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The days of artificial-looking, perfectly maintained landscapes brimming with exotic plant species are passed. Instead, the era of a thriving indigenous garden that provides a biodiverse home for native pollinators has come. All in the cause of a more sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to planting in the twenty-first century.
So, how do we go about it? How can you make your Irish Garden more biodiverse in spring?
There is a lot of wonderful information out there about making small, mindful changes to our homes to create a healthier Irish Garden that benefits the environment and native animals.
Biodiversity is a goal worth aiming for in the face of what some scientists predict is the 6th Mass Extinction. Unfortunately, this means many indigenous species may be lost to us in the next few years, with possibly dangerous ramifications for our local ecosystems.
Our very own Irish Government has declared a Biodiversity Emergency.
Consider the extinction of important pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Their departure will also have a significant impact on our food supply. During times like this, EVERY GARDEN is critical to the cause.
Nature is beneficial to us, especially those who live in cities. More exposure to natural areas is beneficial to your mental health. Furthermore, by exposing our children to greater biodiversity at an early age, it can help prevent allergies.
A green ribbon, no matter how modest it is in your small urban area, even if it is just a balcony, can also help us avoid the harsher impacts of pollution and minimize floods.
We must also allow our indigenous species of flora and fauna to thrive by not introducing aggressive new species from outside our island where possible.
What does this look like, and how do we do this? Read on…
It means inviting nature into your garden and backyard or even your balcony.
Create an environment that allows native species in the following categories to thrive:
A Biodiverse Garden provides a natural environment that gives these species food, shelter, water, stability and security.
So let us look at some steps to foster this environment.
Yes! It's time to break free from that old shackle: that neatly kept lawn!
You can stop worrying about when to mow your grass. If you have one, consider mowing it less frequently to encourage the growth of wildflowers and dandelions. The bees adore it.
Also, if you have synthetic grass, it is time to replace it with a more natural surface. It is not always necessary to have grass. Moss or "Mind Your Own Business," a plant that naturally creeps over any rocky surface like a gorgeous green carpet, can be used.
This will take some self-control but think of the bigger picture!
There are some ‘weeds’ that are essential for pollinators, like Bees and dandelions. These early flowering plants in spring provide a ready and urgent supply of post-winter nectar for our pollinators.
Reducing the number of times, you cut your lawn during the spring & summer will help. If you can’t resist mowing, just leave patches in your lawn for weeds, such as dandelions.
Remember, all it takes are these clear principles: food, shelter, water, stability and security to support biodiversity.
So think about the ways you can help the native birds in your area find a haven where they can rest, feed and nest.
Are you creating opportunities like sheltering trees or setting up bird boxes and feeding stations?
Here is a handy list of native flowering plants you can plant in Spring :
Remember that not all Irish gardens are made alike; some may receive more sunlight and be south facing, while others may thrive at higher altitudes with lower weather. Coastal areas may have unique soil and growth conditions to consider. There might be additional specific solutions tailored to your specific microclimate.
You can create a more diverse ecosystem by planting various plants, trees, shrubs, and grasses that will flower and bloom at different times of the year. This ensures a ready supply of nectar for pollinators from the early Spring days throughout the growing season until late Autumn.
This means planning by securing bulbs for later seasons and planting those early in the year.
A simple stone wall can do wonders, and what’s more, this is a lovely traditional feature that is part of the Irish vernacular landscape. Why?
Stonewalls are the perfect bug hotel and were built for sheltering wandering seeds. Unfortunately, all those little uneven edges and indentations can play host to both bug shelters and creeping vines.
Solitary bees love those little crevices for building a microhabitat in. Mosses, fungi, lichens and even ferns will.
You can even recreate this in a balcony or small urban yard with a pile of stones in the corner on a raised bed.
There you have it. Some essential advice will help you join the fight to save the native species of flora and fauna of Ireland in your backyard.