What ever the weather throws at us, April is one of the most exciting months of the year. Many of our summer migrant wildlife species have returned, the evenings are long enough for post-work walks, and the countryside is bursting with new growth and blossom.
It is also the month that my activity levels on the allotment take off.
Britain is a nation of gardeners; it is estimated that private gardens cover over 10 million acres in this country; that’s more than all Britain’s nature reserves combined!
Now spring is truly here, it is the perfect time to get outside, get your hands dirty, and get growing! (And if there are little people in your life why not include some garden fun into your Easter holiday activities?)
I love gardens and allotments. I have cared for an allotment plot rented from a local estate for 3 years, and work at a family-run plant nursery in West Sussex, so my days are spent surrounded by plants and the people who love them. Not only do I enjoy nurturing flowers, herbs and vegetables, but gardens are important in so many other ways too. A garden can be a real force for good – from therapeutic opportunities or artistic inspiration, to a place where people gather and connect. Most importantly for me, the garden is a place to be in touch with nature. With so much of our countryside impoverished, under threat, or struggling to adapt in rapidly changing circumstances, gardens are often a last refuge for wildlife. What ever the size of our gardens or our access to outdoor space, there are ways we can make a difference to the flora and fauna that shares the space with us.
My garden at home consists of a patch of lawn, a slightly sickly looking neighbour’s boundary hedge, and a sunny bank of chalk and builders rubble that is determined to merge back into the bramble scrub and woodland beyond the end of this small area. Much of what I grow here is in containers, out of necessity due to lack of soil depth elsewhere. Like the increasing majority of folk in their mid-20’s now, I rent my home and am unlikely to be in a position to own a property for many years. I also work full time, and spending budget is limited to non-existent, so a portable garden that is easy to maintain and costs very little (or nothing at all where possible!) is vital.
This time last year I was struggling to grow something, anything, on a tiny 2x1m balcony and gazing longingly the gardens of my ground floor neighbours. I nearly cried to watch a beautiful silver birch tree felled, and soil disappear beneath artificial turf. The tiny patches just metres below me were typical of the average housing-estate back garden; small, dominated by the over-stuffed shed, wonky washing line and wheelie-bin store. But they had potential and I ached to bring them into bloom. From my overlooking position I didn’t see isolated patches of worn lawn and tired shrubs, those gardens, like gardens all over the countryside formed a network of green corridors and with a few tweaks and ‘TLC’ could provide homes and havens for creatures of all shapes and sizes.
I am lucky to have the allotment plot, which gives me much more flexibility on the range and quantity of plants I can grow, and the opportunity to experience and learn. If you are certain you are prepared to put in the work throughout the year, allotments are a fantastic hobby – soon becoming totally addictive!
A passion for wildlife is at the heart of everything I do in the garden – whether it’s how I work with nature to protect my vegetable crops, which varieties of flower seeds I choose to sow, or the features I add to my green-spaces to ensure the creatures that share the space with me have opportunities to feed and breed. A garden without nature is a sterile place, heartless and sad… so I say embrace ‘the wild’ – you might be its last chance!
Each Wednesday this month I’ll be sharing a blog with a #SpeciesFocus, looking at the lives of some of our loved, misunderstood, underrated or threatened garden wildlife.
Wednesday 3rd April: ‘Spawned’ (Frogs & Toads)
Wednesday 10th April: ‘Wizards Tree’ (Rowan)
Wednesday 17 th April Sunday 21st April: ‘High-Risers’ (Swifts & Martins)
Wednesday 24th April: ‘Furze-peg’ (Hedgehog)
Please ‘Like’ The Really Wild Gardener page on Facebook.
Tropical colours, arching stems of scrumptious fruit, soft-blown petals of roses… gardens endlessly pose and perform for the camera. Look out for some of my favourite photos taken at some very special gardens.
Every Friday this April: A selection of photos from visits to some of my favourite gardens, including: Kew, Parham, West Dean, & Mottisfont.
Please ‘Like’ Sussex Field Notes page on Facebook.