Saturday, 28 June 2014

Build it and they will come

Probably not always true, at least when it comes to East London Stadiums and West Ham, but I'm talking about the garden here, and the thing with wildlife in the garden, it takes little more than piling some logs in the corner to give some bug or another a home. These are ideas from one garden I've been working on....

I think this is a dragonfly nymph - St Leonards Spring 2014 
A pond. Probably the ultimate in habitat creation. Deep central zones, shallow edges, water margins, crevices, basking stones, drinking water. The watering hole on an African plain brings together all forms of Wildlife, a pond emulates just that. Dragonflies, water boatmen, pond skaters, freshwater hoglice, newts and frogs all appear as if by magic, but its not – its nature in all its awesomeness moving in to use a resource.
Teaming with different species, its hard to take your eyes off it. Predators, prey, life, death, birth and development. Its all here, because there's water and all its benefits. Larger animals will visit too. Foxes, badgers and birds. Its no wonder its top of the list.

In this pond

Wildflower meadows. Another way to create a beautiful habitat. They have a low carbon footprint as all you need is a patch of ground and a bunch of seed. It can be a bit hit and miss with the germination, but when it works.... you get this. Humming with insects, overwhelmed with colour and movement. This meadow was given a structure beneath it to both protect and support from Rocky the dog. Last year it came up and was quickly flattened – not this time. Often these stands of flowers are the show stoppers of the gardens I create or tend. They are always busy with bees and other pollinators.

Using existing resources to create habitat is a common sense approach. This garden is full of trees. Reusing this resource as part of the infrastructure is definitely a permaculture principle. The logs go in as a retaining wall, and the gaps (inevitably there will be gaps) are backfilled with brush and twigs. We have created a wall that is a genuine one off, has cost little in materials, a carbon footprint of almost zero (wood from 10 Metres away), and a habitat for insects.

With the excessive amount of brush and logs, we not only have wood piles in every possible corner, but our first hugel mound. Basically wood of various sizes and types (make sure the wood you are using is not alliopathic, like black walnut) buried in a pit and mounded up over the surface, then buried with topsoil and compost. The wood breaks down over time, creating nutrition, mycellium and heat. It also soaks up water, keeping the mound moister in the Summer, and as its a mound, and higher than existing ground, it won't flood in the winter. It appears to be working already, and the expected optimum time (when the wood has sufficiently broken down) is probably 1 or 2 years from now. The spinach and lettuce are not bolting, despite a lack of watering and a hot Summer so far (Bolting is caused by stress, often lack of moisture or excessive heat).

So we can build to attract insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. We can even build to attract mycorrhizal funghi, and just like a good festival – they will come. It is however, good to understand what we are building, and why. It is great putting together habitat projects, creating microclimates and niches but it is also possible to create problems for ourselves. Collecting pots together, as I have done on the deck in my own garden does conserve moisture for the veggies. It also gives a good home for snails. Moist, cool and food on tap. It means a sweep most nights and the inevitable cull. The lip at the top of large tubs tend to house the most molluscs, but also check under pots, any trays or old pots you have lying around, and go out at night if you can to pick them off. Its necessary – theyll eat it all if you let em!

And the shack – it's happening. It's slow – and I keep changing my mind about stuff, but the shell is there. Once this is built, it'll be beers on the deck and banjos on the rocking chair. Me and Michelle can hide from children and students, and Scotty Garret, master and Commander of BADASS (Bohemia Area Dad's Association.) will be popping round to tinker with rocket stoves and talk permaculture. And just like a pond for habitat creation, a shack will create a habitat for me and mine.



  1. Official blog comment... sorry it's just your facebook ones and not nice new voices! Gotta get myself round and check out that shack. When's the roof happening? Liked that bug wall too, nice little infills. Keep it up Marky!!

    1. Thanks Scott, I reckon roof on next week hopefully. Beers tomorrow?