Dave Goulson is Professor of Biology at the University of Brighton. His books, include ‘The Garden Jungle’ and ‘Gardening for Bumblebees’.
At a recent talk, he explained that we need insects to pollinate our food crops. In the UK some growers are now employing people to hand-pollinate their plants, because insect numbers have declined so dramatically.
We can help here though. The area of gardens across England is over 4.5 times that of national nature reserves, so by gardening for nature together we can make a difference.
As part of the CPRE Sussex ‘Festival of Spring’, Prof Goulson explained how we can garden to save the planet:
We can plant native wildflowers which attract most insects, such as bright blue Viper’s Bugloss and purple Greater Knapweed. Insects love Marjoram and we can enjoy eating it too. Garden flowers which insects favour include Catmint and Geranium Rozanne. Although the cultivated double varieties of flowers look pretty, they are not particularly insect friendly because butterflies and other insects can’t reach the nectar through the mass of petals.
A weed is only a plant in the wrong place! If we change our attitudes and regard dandelions as little patches of sunshine – maybe in a wildlife corner – they can offer early spring food for many insects and a joyful splash of welcome colour in a dull corner.
We can save money as we protect wildlife by not spraying poisons, but letting predators control pests. Ladybirds and lacewings both feast on greenfly and other aphids, but pesticides kill all insects not just the ones we regard as “bad”. Pesticides also kill insects which provide food needed for many of the birds which we like to encourage into our gardens.
Cutting your lawn less often (and particularly not in May when flowers provide vital nectar for pollinators) or even better, leaving a patch altogether unmown, will enable wild flowers to flourish and provide a colourful display visited by butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
Worried that neighbours will think you are neglecting your garden? Just explain that you are gardening to save the planet and encourage them to do the same!
When we welcome nature into our gardens, we do make a difference.
Prof Dave Goulson encouraged us all to ‘Save a bee today: Save the planet tomorrow’… little and large at the same time…local and lasting.
CPRE Sussex, the countryside charity, works for a beautiful, thriving Sussex countryside for all to enjoy. Join CPRE Sussex/find out more at: www.cpresussex.org.uk and contact for a link to Dave Goulson’s talk.