Home Environment and health Native plants and ‘lazy’ gardening best for wildlife

Native plants and ‘lazy’ gardening best for wildlife

Mandy's garden
Stuff your garden full of plants and let them grow - my garden, August 2017

RHS study backs the sloppy gardener!

I’m always banging on about not being so controlling in the garden and it seems the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is agreeing with me (for once).

Planting more native plants and taking a relaxed attitude to your garden is the key to creating a bug-friendly garden, the RHS has said.

Cram in more plants, particularly native species, reduce pruning and pretend you haven’t seen nibbled leaves or the odd snail or aphid.

RHS research project

A four-year “plants for bugs” research project was designed to test whether the geographical origin of garden plants affected the amount and different types of insects and spiders they support.

The study, published in Biodiversity And Conservation, looked at 36 garden-border sized plots planted with perennials and shrubby plants native to one of three geographical regions, the UK, the northern hemisphere excluding the UK and the southern hemisphere.

All supported large numbers of invertebrates, but the borders filled with native plants did best, supporting 10 per cent more than the second-best borders with plants from the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere planting supported one- fifth fewer invertebrates than the native planting.

Across all the plant groups, the more densely they are planted, or allowed to grow, the greater the number of all types of bugs they supported.

Native plants to boost wildlife include foxgloves, purple loosestrife, common honeysuckle, and heather.

Expert’s view of garden ecology

RHS principal entomologist Dr. Andrew Salisbury said: “The presence of a wide range of invertebrates, such as ladybirds, springtails, spiders and even caterpillars are indicators of a diverse and well-functioning garden eco-system, and so should be encouraged and supported.

“While some of these animals, particularly herbivores, are traditionally regarded as pests by gardeners, they are vital to support healthy populations of natural predators which in turn help keep pest populations under control.

“And they provide food for garden birds and mammals such as hedgehogs. In short, an abundance of bugs of all types equates to healthy garden ecology.

“In order to help create a positive environment for these valuable invertebrates to thrive gardeners should plant plenty of plants from the UK and relax; refrain from spraying plants at the first sign of pest attack, and reduce trimming and allow some plant debris to accumulate in order to support the garden’s food chain.”

For more information, visit www.rhs.org.uk.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


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