It is easy to get very glum about the state of our world. Every day there is news that makes one feel helpless. I have had my own few weeks of feeling like there is nothing I can do to change things and that in fact, with my new career choice, I have thought I might be making things worse. But the natural world is incredibly resilient. Given time and allowing it to do its own thing it can bounce back in an amazing way.
California was ravaged by wildfires this time last year and has had huge amounts of rain in the last few months. These two catastrophic events could make one feel terrible but I read at the weekend that as a result there is an incredible blooming of Californian poppies. The landscape is a carpet of beautiful orange flowers and is healing itself.
I was also reading just recently that researchers had asked farmers to dig pits in their fields to count the amount of earth worms. Worms being integral to soil health farmers found that on average there were only 9 worms per spadeful whereas in the best soils there were 33. Farmers were so shocked by the finding that 50% of those taking part in the research pledged to improve their working practices. One gets the view that farmers, with fields of monocultural crops and overuse of artificial pesticides and fertilisers, don’t much care about the environment and their soil but I found this heartening that there was a real commitment to try to make things better.
Of course we can do this too in our own gardens or allotments. By adding a mulch of well rotted manure or home made compost or even bought compost to our borders annually we can encourage a healthier soil structure. The soil is home to billions of living organisms. By not using artificial fertilisers and pesticides in our gardens we can create an environment that supports all these fabulous creatures from fungi to earthworms and, dare I say it, slugs and snails and the food chain is then self supporting. There is no need to dig it in. Just add it to the surface as a mulch and earth worms will do the rest. By not using pesticides we encourage natural predators to keep our plants free of pests and diseases and don’t kill off the good guys with the bad.
By being slightly less tidy in our gardens and leaving piles of wood, twigs and leaves in a tucked away corner we can encourage other invertebrates and small mammals. These then support a vibrant ecosystem.
On a larger scale, by allowing their farmland to revert to a wild state with little intervention apart from large herbivores managing the environment, the Knepp Estate in Sussex has created a wood pasture landscape that has become a wildlife haven. In the space of 15 years the estate is home to thriving populations of Turtle Doves, Emperor Butterflies, 15 of the 17 bat species in the UK, Nightingales, Owls, insects: 441species of moths and many species of songbird. The estate has changed from an overworked monoculture to a thriving and biodiverse landscape.
Turtle Dove, Nightingale and Purple Emperor Butterfly
These pieces of positive news help me when the outlook is portrayed otherwise. They inspire me to do more for our world and encourage me to think that making beautiful, biodiverse gardens that leave a legacy for the future is a good thing. Rather than thinking of our gardens as individual plots we should be encouraged to see them as wildlife corridors. We can be excited by the prospect of supporting the natural world and making our gardens resilient for the future.