It is that time of year (early summer in the northern hemisphere) when many people want to get their gardens and yards looking their best so that they can enjoy being outside in attractive and natural surroundings.
Fortunately in recent years, gardeners have been changing to less harsh methods and embracing a more organic way of doing things.
We are trying to step back from being such a throw away society and looking to see how we can make wildlife more welcome, encourage nature rather than toxic chemicals to fight any unwanted pests and reusing and recycling wherever possible.
Here are some of those tips
Encourage ladybugs, hoverflies and bees and other pollinators
The simple open flowers of plants like zinnias and marigolds provide the perfect source of pollen and nectar for hover flies. Their larvae repay you by eating all those aphids (black fly and green fly) that can cause a lot of damage to your plants. The ladybugs too will feast on those aphids to keep the numbers down. Bees will come
if you grow nectar and pollen-rich flowers and flowering shrubs. Lavender
is an example and bees especially love the color purple.
Keeping the weeds down
No one wants masses of weeds popping up all over the place but if you can do regular weeding "a little and often" by hoeing and hand weeding, the task is never that bad. Once the weeds are cleared, spreading a mulch over the soil will keep it damp and weed-free. Try not to use chemicals to combat and control weeds.
Of course the more flowers, vegetables and fruit you have growing in your gardens, the less space there is for weeds! Letting small areas grow a bit wild is another way to be more organic and to worry less about those weeds...
The old wheelbarrow below has been planted up with a wild flower mix and I am watching and waiting for the flowers to burst forth!
Learn to compost
A dedicated corner of the garden with a compost bin is invaluable. Collect all the vegetable peelings, used tea leaves or tea bags, egg shells, pieces of cardboard, shredded newspapers, grass cuttings and soft garden waste and add in layers for it to rot down over the summer months. You will end up with your own organic and natural fertilizer. You can also use a wormery.
Find out more about how the worms do all the work for you and at a fast pace.
Collecting fallen leaves for leafmould
If you have a lot of trees around your garden, collect up the leaves in the fall (making sure they are nice and wet) and store in a leaf bin to make leaf mold over the winter months. Not available commercially, leafmould is excellent for improving soil structure and the perfect mulch for woodland plants or to condition heavy soils. It is also the easiest thing in the world to make. Areas that have wet winters mean the leaves can just be left to decompose. However, in very dry climates you might need to give them a regular watering with a hose. The following October, empty your leafmould ready to use.
A wild life habitat does not have to be a wilderness
Many gardeners are now including a wild life area, however small. There is always space for a wildlife corner - it could be a simple drinking spot, nesting boxes for birds, an old wheelbarrow filled with wild flowers, a log pile which is left undisturbed to attract frogs toads, beetles and more (to shelter during the day and come out at night to forage for slugs and snails) or you could leave part of the lawn to grow long.
Think about a water feature
And it can be as small or as large as you like, anything from a water filled tub set into the ground to a large lined and purpose made pond. If possible, site in a sunny place away from trees and include a slope to enable frogs, dragonfly larvae and other small water loving creatures to clamber in and out. Vegetation around the area will provide cover.
Using those nooks and crannies
Solitary bees loves holes in walls, beetles and fungi will take up residence in a log pile in a shady damp corner while amphibians and reptiles will hide in sunny rockeries and rock piles. Hollow stems left standing in winter months provide important shelter for insects so don't be in too much of a hurry to tidy up in the fall.
There are so many different ways in which to be more organic and natural in your garden.
I am always coming across new ideas and keep a scrapbook file where I can store them.
They come in very useful as I have the job of looking after the meadow and wildlife garden on the allotment site
close to where we live.
All images by Jane Chitty for amoils.com