After last year’s extreme drought and high temperatures in the UK, this summer has been more typical, i.e., cool and wet. While it would have been nice to have something warmer and a bit drier, I feel lucky we haven’t had to deal with the heat that southern Europe and other parts of the world have experienced due to climate change.
A decrease in the number of insects has been known about for some time now; there are a host of excellent books on the topic by Professor Dave Goulson. Sadly I am noticing it a lot more now, for instance, I have counted three ladybirds this summer in my garden. Just three! I remember in the 1980s, when I was growing up, you’d find ladybirds everywhere. Well, not now. Lacewings, too. I can’t remember the last time I saw a lacewing. The worrying thing is my garden is the perfect habitat for these creatures and I’ve always gardened organically, but these creatures are just not about in the same numbers nowadays due to intensive agriculture and the changing climate – cold springs seem to be a particular problem. Small creatures like these might seem insignificant, but ladybirds and lacewings, for example, are the best natural predators of aphids, so for a healthy garden we need them.
The terms eco-anxiety and eco-grief have been coined by those studying our relationship with the natural world. For some of us seeing the impact of climate change on wildlife and the planet is proving to be unsettling at the very least. For me, it’s tricky knowing what to do with the garden when I need to plant for so many different extremes: cold, heat, drought and flooding. This year’s cold spring meant the seeds I sowed direct in April didn’t germinate. I sowed some seeds in late May but they didn’t appear because we then had a drought for six weeks.
I’ve taken to reading about the subject. Losing Eden by Lucy Jones and The Nature Fix by Florence Williams both delve into why humans need nature for both our physical and mental health. Lucy also looks at how we’ve become so disconnected from nature due to modern life that we’re not even noticing it disappear.
Isabella Tree’s books Wilding and The Book of Wilding both show what can be done when we give nature a helping hand. What Isabella and her husband have achieved in twenty years on their estate at Knepp in Sussex, in southern England, is truly remarkable. Where their agricultural land was once depleted of life it now teems with biodiversity including species that were on the verge of extinction. If you feel at all despondent about the climate crisis then her books will imbue you with hope. As does Wild Fell by Lee Schofield, the story of regenerating upland habitat in the English Lake District, with the hope of one day attracting golden eagles back to a place where they once lived.
What You Can Do
For me, these books have highlighted that our gardens, no matter how small, are the places where we can make a difference by being less tidy, planting for wildlife, creating a pond, putting up nest boxes, growing our own food and, most importantly, not using chemicals to kill weeds and pests. But there are so many more things we gardeners can do beyond our hedges. Here are just a few ideas:
- Litter pick around where you live to prevent plastic, in particular, being washed or blown into drains and rivers where it’s broken down into micro-plastics.
- See if there are any environmental groups in your area creating wildflower areas or planting trees that you could join and share your gardening skills.
- Change your household cleaning products to a brand that contains natural, environmentally-friendly ingredients. Many cleaners contain harsh chemicals that end up in our rivers and seas where they can be harmful to wildlife.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
- Current blog posts
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- Sterile soil is not good for the plants
- Greenhouse plants also get sick
- Hens in the garden
- Provide shade for your plants
- The philosophical gardener’s theory of perennials
- Create good living conditions for animals and insects in the garden
- The golf courses great secret
- What you need to be aware of when growing in plastic