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Gardening with Nature

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More and more allotment gardeners are keen to garden with nature as plots can be seen as a  haven for birds, mammals, bees, butterflies and other insects. Allotment sites can act as a  stepping stone in the nature network.  

Many insects are very beneficial on the allotment - did you know that beetles are the number one  slug predator, ladybirds and hoverflies eat all manner of aphids, whilst bees of course pollinate  our fruit, so it is good to get to know the beneficial insects. Whilst birds do eat some fruit, with so  much fruit on our plots it is unlikely your whole crop will be devoured. Strawberries of course may  be a different matter and would definitely benefit from a net covering.  

Flowers can help to bring in and build the insect population and, eventually, a balance of nature  can be achieved. Insects are so important for those birds like swallows and swifts whose diet  consists entirely of insects. Even a small area can help. Areas of longer grass or a patch of nettles  near the hedges provides food and a breeding place for butterflies. Several plot holders have  created tiny ponds or a small wild flower area on their plots. 

Of course one of the best things you can do is to avoid all use of chemicals on your plot. Many of  us have joined the Allotment Society to grow and enjoy eating food that has not been sprayed  with pesticides. Physical barriers are all useful here - fleece over cabbage plants, mesh to prevent  carrot fly, netting to stop cabbage whites (though they always seem to find a way in), cardboard to  stop those weeds! 

Habitats can be easily created for wildlife - take a look at the bug hotels featured on several of our  plots. Bird boxes can be set up to encourage nesting; even a few piles of logs or stones give the  toads somewhere to hide (and they too will eat lots of those slugs). And of course many of us  already use bird feeders to encourage birds onto the plot.  

Making compost is such an amazing way to recycle all those dead and rotting plants, weeds and  garden debris, and saves those never ending trips to the tip, whilst also creating a habitat for  centipedes, beetles, worms and toads. Costly fertilisers can be a thing of the past as the  compost you make feeds the soil which then shows in plant vibrancy and growth. 

Green manures are another way of nature friendly gardening, providing the soil with cover during  the winter months and incorporating fertility when dug in. Or practise no dig to build up the many  beneficial organisms present in your soil, likewise spreading compost to protect the soil surface.  

The sight of a patch of borage or phacelia flowers, beautiful in themselves but also covered in  bees busy providing for their families too, is a delight to behold. Native flowers, or ornamental  flowers, perhaps for cutting, can be enjoyed both by you and by the wildlife.  

With just a few adjustments we can provide for nature as well as ourselves.

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