Common carder bees (Bombus pascuorum) on Knapweed. PHOTO: Michael Keating.
As International Biodiversity Day approaches on Friday, May 22, a new booklet that provides advice on how to help the wildlife in your garden has been launched.
The brainchild of zoologist and author Juanita Browne, the booklet was produced by Local Authority Heritage Officers across Ireland with help from the National Parks & Wildlife Service and The Heritage Council.
Taking a very practical approach, the 40-page booklet entitled ‘Gardening for Biodiversity’ details projects to help wildlife of all kinds under a range of headings, with tasks suitable for everyone from the total beginner to the more ambitious do-it-yourself enthusiast.
With clear instructions and step-by-step drawings by illustrator Barry Reynolds, the guide offers people lots of options to help our biodiversity.
“There is an abundance of wildlife to be found and to be supported in our gardens,” said Joseph Gallagher, Donegal Heritage Officer.
“There’s an increasing interest in the birds, bees and bugs on our doorstep and, in recent weeks, people have taken the opportunity to explore the wildlife in their gardens or in nearby public spaces.
“The illustrated advice contained in this free booklet provides some simple ideas as to how you can appreciate the biodiversity around us and help make your garden a haven for wildlife.”
An accompanying colouring book for children using the beautiful garden wildlife illustrations by Barry Reynolds can also be downloaded on-line at www.donegalcoco.ie/heritage
With increasing agricultural intensification, gardens in many areas can be an oasis for wildlife and with small changes we can make them even better.
The guide outlines actions that can be taken to improve gardens for birds, bees, butterflies, bats and more, and the good news is many of the steps that can be taken are really easy.
Just leaving an ‘untidy’ corner of your garden for nature, leaving roadside verges to grow naturally or allowing some of the gold star plants for biodiversity - dandelion, willow, bramble, clover, ivy - a spot in your garden can reap huge dividends for wildlife.
“I hope that this simple guide to gardening with biodiversity in mind will help all of us to create gardens that are more wildlife-friendly,” said Juanita Browne, author of the guide.
“Gardening for biodiversity doesn’t equate to letting your garden go wild, but simply doing things a little differently.
“For instance, when choosing plants to buy in a garden centre, perhaps you could choose plants that have insects on their flowers. Or you could create a wildflower strip around your lawn where dandelions, daisies, clover and other wildflowers are allowed to grow.
“These small changes can bring huge benefits for biodiversity.”
For the more adventurous, the book contains step-by-step guidance on how to build a bird bath, create a log pile for hedgehogs and mini beasts, and how to install a pond or bog garden.
With an estimated two million gardens in this country, action by just some of those people could make a huge difference for our native wildlife. But it won’t just benefit the biodiversity.
There is increasing evidence that time spent in nature is good for our own mental health and well-being too.
As more of us spend time closer to home, regular contact with the natural world has become ever more important.
A 2016 World Health Organisation review found that urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and gardens, can promote mental and physical health, and reduce morbidity and mortality in urban residents by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise and excessive heat.
‘Gardening for Biodiversity’ is funded by the Department for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of the implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan.
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