GARDEN writer Val Bourne recently explained to the Uplyme & Lyme Regis Horticultural Society how all the elements of our gardens fit together to create a ‘living jigsaw’.
Val, who gardens on the cold and windy heights of the Cotswolds without chemicals for pest and disease control, brought together recent research findings and years of her own observations to show how we can improve the health of our gardens.
To have visible wildlife like hedgehogs we need all the lower orders of insects to feed them.
Val pointed out: “You can’t separate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ insects – you need them all.”
With some stunning close ups of insects, larvae and eggs taken in her own garden, she showed the positive impact of parasitic wasps, hoverflies, spiders and ladybirds.
Some surprising research has shown that fields treated with chemicals to control slugs have more slugs than those without chemicals.
Meanwhile tar wash which was used to treat fruit tree red spider mite was also found to kill its 45 predators, meaning that treated orchards suffered worse infestations than untreated organic orchards.
So what practical things can we do as gardeners? We need plenty of dense planting to create the right environment for insects such as ground beetles.
Diverse planting will help insects such as ladybirds where different types tend to be found on different ranges of plants.
Early and late flowers provide food for all sorts of pollinators and hedges can be fantastic for wildlife, but choose the right plants – hawthorn can support up to 149 species of insect while cherry laurel will only support four, one of which is vine weevil.
Finally, she recommended not putting all your garden ‘to bed’ over the winter so that there was still food for the birds and places for insects to hibernate.