Wildlife-friendly gardens hit the headlines in 2021 when a garden full of weeds won a gold medal at the Royal Horticultural Society flower show at Tatton Park. The creator of the garden wanted to highlight that 'weeds' are actually native wildflowers, and a vital habitat for insects, birds and mammals.
Private gardens in the UK cover and area of around 433,000 hectares . To put this in perspective, all of the National Nature Reserves in Scotland, England and Wales combined have an area of 275,000 hectares, so gardens represent a vast resource for supporting native wildlife. Gardens and allotments also provide the opportunity to grow your own fruit and veg, giving you delicious, healthy, low-carbon food with zero food miles and zero packaging.
If you are not lucky enough to have your own garden then there may be community gardens and allotments in your area, and even a window ledge can provide you with space for some home-grown herbs or some native wildflowers in pots.
Community Gardens in the East Neuk
The Anstruther and District Allotment Association run an allotment site at Dreelside in Anstruther, accessible to everyone in the Anstruther and District area. Dreelside Walkway is also home to the Dreelside Forest Garden, a community group who aim to preserve and develop the forest garden, orchard and wildlife meadow on the walkway for the benefit of local people. Follow the links to get in touch or get involved with these groups.
The East Neuk Centre in Anstruther also has a community garden, please get in touch with them to find out more. Some of the food grown at the Dreelside allotments is distributed at the Community Fridge, which runs at the East Neuk Centre every Thursday from 1-3pm.
The 'no-mow' movement
The No Mow May campaign from Plantlife has done a lot to change people's attitudes towards their lawn. By simply not mowing your lawn during May and allowing plants to flower you can provide an enormous boost to pollinators. Why not take it a step further with no-mow May-September, and create your very own grassland? Mowing the edges or cutting a few paths through it can make it look more deliberate and less neglected.
Go peat free
Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, holding more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. Damaged peatlands release carbon dioxide, accounting for about 6% of global anthropogenic CO emissions annually . The message couldn't be clearer - don't buy compost with peat in it.
The UK Government has pledged to ban the sale of peat and peat-containing products by 2024, but why wait until then? Start experimenting now with peat-free alternatives and share your tips and experiences with fellow gardeners.
Permaculture is a movement that combines knowledge of natural systems, design approaches and appropriate technology to develop a more sustainable way of living. It can apply at many scales, from your home and garden up to communities, farms and entire regions.
Permaculture methods that apply to gardening include things like no-dig gardening, natural fertilisers, perennial vegetables, companion planting and rainwater harvest. It is a large and complex subject, but a good place to start exploring it is the Permaculture Association website, or by speaking to a local expert at West Braes Permaculture, based in Pittenweem.