Creating an eco-garden

The trick, I find is creating a natural garden but also making it look like a cultivated one, as opposed to an over grown jungle. I started to convert our garden a couple of years ago and I found these things work:

  • Let plants start to grow where you find them, until you don’t want them there anymore. Self-seeded plants create clumps of the same species and its always good to grow them in one, threes or fives. Soon beds will look naturalised. Pick insect loving plants if you buy them.
  • When you prune hardwood pile it up in the corner. It makes an excellent insect hotel and will gradually rot down. We had a stag beetle emerge from our hotel this year.
  • Leave a bit of your garden to grow wild and watch to see what grows and starts to live there. Hang a bee house in the corner and solitary bees will nest in it.
  • This year we let our grass grow and mowed a path through it. We curved the path so you couldn’t see when it ended. It takes your eye up the garden and makes you want to walk up it to see where it leads. The grasses grow amazingly in the summer and we were surprised just how many types of grass seed heads we had. I found cutting the grass low adjacent to flower beds stops the garden looking like you couldn’t be bothered to mow it!!
  • Throw a packet of wild flower seeds around and see what comes up!
  • Build a compost heap for cuttings. Mulch under hedges with grass cuttings.
  • Ponds are amazing for wildlife. If that sounds daunting, then buy a couple of black planters and fill them with rain water (tap will do though). Put oxygenating plants in them from the garden centre (they are clearly marked as such). Don’t put anything else in there and watch it over the summer as it populates with insects and grows an eco system of its own.  Don’t be tempted to add anything artificial as it will destabilise it. We just left ours when we started and the water stayed totally clear!
  • The following year we dug a pond. This year we have newts and dragonflies hatching all the time, water boatmen and frogs and toads.  They just arrived by themselves.
  • Grow some vegetables. Last year we grew some in vegetable pots and this year we converted our front garden to a potager's garden - a mix of vegetables and flowers in a patterned design.
  • I always find whatever I plant this year grows 100% more and better the next. I am looking forward to seeing how our converted meadow looks next year, now that I have left it for a year.
  • Create areas in the garden that can’t be seen from the back door. It creates ‘rooms’ outside and makes the observer want to walk up the garden to see what’s there.
  • Never use insecticides. Mother Nature finds its own way to deal with bugs and slugs. I find that where there’s a bug, there’s a predator!!

I love gardening so would be very happy to answer any questions about wildlife gardening, or even help with some garden design. I love doing makeovers!  You’re very welcome to pop in anytime if you want to see what we’ve been up to.

Happy gardening!

Andy Wells
Winner of Gold in the Guildford in Bloom competition 2017, 2018 and 2019. Winner of  Best in Category 2019.