What can I do?
Nowadays, most gardens can be best described as green deserts – although aesthetically pleasing, they are very low in life and diversity. The lawns of closely cut grass that are popular today first popped up in 17th-century England as a means of displaying wealth and status. Only landowners with extreme wealth could afford the peoplepower to preserve such lawns and the carpets of green screamed “Look how much land I have, I don’t even need to grow food on this bit!” In so many ways, lawns signify lost opportunities, most of which results from what we consider a ‘beautiful’ garden to be. Surely it is nicer to look out of your window and see a thriving ecosystem with local animals at play, than plain old grass? How then can we turn these green deserts into green oases which support local biodiversity?
Let your garden get a little wild!
Highly manicured gardens totally fail to resemble the diversity and disorder of natural ecosystems. Besides the lack of plant diversity, lawns also offer no physical protection for vulnerable critters. Why not allow part of your garden to turn ‘wild’ by no longer mowing there! You can also sow different grasses, flowers and shrubs in your wild patch to attract local wildlife. Furthermore, adding some rocks or cut branches in piles will provide a cosy hideaway for insects which can, in turn, attract other species to your garden! In terms of weeding, remember a ‘weed’ is just a plant that we don’t consider pretty, but they can help take care of your soil and promote biodiversity too!
Use local plant species
While all plants can make some contribution to supporting biodiversity in your garden, some do a better job than others. It is important to understand that the plants and animals native to your area have grown accustomed to being around one another and thrive off one another in unique relationships (this is particularly true for pollinator species like our good friends the bees). Opting for indigenous species also reduces the load on you, the gardener, as the plants require less water, maintenance and chemicals than exotic species which may not feel as at home in our climate or soils.
Avoid the use of chemicals
While we are led to believe agrochemicals are highly advanced and specific in their mode of action, sadly this is not the case and most of them are simply poison. We invariably put many plants and animals, besides the target, at risk when using such chemicals. This is also true for organic chemicals which are simply from different sources than synthetic chemicals, but still act in the same fashion. The best way to make your garden resilient to takeover by any one organism is by having diversity! You can also use specific plants for the job, like marigolds (goudsbloem in Dutch), which are probably the best renowned insect repellents!
Do you not have a garden?
If you have a balcony, you can plant flower boxes of local species and popular pollinator varieties, and offer lodgings to any potential visitors with an insect hotel (easy to make but also available from various sources online). Or why not get involved in a little bit of guerrilla gardening using the knowledge from above? A trend which is becoming more and more popular, guerrilla gardening entails sowing local seeds or planting indigenous shrubs and trees in your area to support biodiversity! Another option is to turn pavement into a green patch. On the website of the municipality of Utrecht you find more information on how to get started and how to get funding.