Managing your garden, balcony or land for biodiversity in Ireland
Managing your garden, farm, balcony or windowsill for biodiversity takes less effort than you may think! But think about it, in a number of months your garden will be literally buzzing with activity, the smells of the native wildflowers and native pollinator-friendly plants will hit you as soon as you step outside, you’ll be so captivated by its beauty you won’t ever want to go back!
As the evening light slowly diminishes, the chorus of bird song at Beaumont Quarry begins to intensify. It’s late January, just about springtime. I sit and wait, watching, documenting. As a nature enthusiast, a lot of my time is spent observing. A robin plucks at the bare soil at the centre of the quarry. Recent clearing works by Cork Nature Network at the quarry are showing, the clearing of both native and non-native nuisance plant species at Beaumont Quarry is a vital step being taken by volunteers in order to expand the spread of the unique and scarce habitat known as calcareous grassland.
The quarry’s grassland habitat is home to several rare plant species in Ireland, including Little Robin, Pale Flax and Common Toadflax. Little Robin, a small pink-flowered geranium, is our local favourite. It grows in cracks in limestone rocks and walls. Beaumont comprises 9 of its 11 known sites in Cork city. Thanks to the works by volunteers at Cork Nature Network this habitat and its species are being allowed to live on, in the heart of our city.
When I think of protecting Ireland’s wildlife, my mind often wonders towards the national parks in Killarney, the Burren or Connemara, these places of immense national importance seem like the prime areas of protection for our rare habitats and biodiversity. Not many people know that you could reproduce almost the same level of awe inspiring wildlife right in your own garden. Can you imagine it? Waking up to a red squirrel acrobatically jumping through the branches of your native tree out the back, or finding heaps upon heaps of hoverflies, beetles and butterflies being attracted to your well managed wildflower meadow or potted pollinator-friendly plants. This can be your reality, no matter how small your spot, and like the amazing volunteers at Beaumont Quarry you can make a difference to Ireland’s habitats and wildlife. All it takes is a bit of management…
You can help achieve this in your spot! It only takes a couple of steps. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, as developed by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), has setup a myriad of tasks and measures that the average person can do. Go find out more about the plan. First you’ll need to walk around your plot and see if you can identify any aspects which may already be of benefit to wildlife, like an old ash tree covered in ivy, a pond, a wilderness area, all these aspects of your garden should be retained!
Meadow development for biodiversity
One of the main wildlife benefiting measures you can take is following National Pollinator Plan when it comes to mowing your lawn! In order to get your lawn bursting with wildflowers, who’s seeds will naturally occur in your garden’s ‘seedbank’, you’ll have to start decreasing the amount of nutrients your garden gets! Wildflowers love low nutrient soils!
It is recommended that:
- You can help biodiversity by waiting till April to do your first grass cut, so as all the dandylions and clover, will bloom and feed the early bees.
- During the summer allow your grass to grow and then cut it again in September!
- Make sure to take all the grass cuttings away with you, remember wildflowers don’t like a lot of nutrients!
Managing a Pond
Digging a pond and watching it grow can be an amazing experience. You could use an old bucket, bathtub or even vase. Biodiversity ponds can provide breeding areas for frogs, insects and allow birds, bats and mammals a safe place to drink in your garden! To set up a pond just remember;
- less is more,
- try to avoid planting the pond with plants you find at the garden centre, nature will get plants for you for free!
- Make sure you pile stones along an edge within the pond water so that anything that falls in can get out safely!
Planting pollinator friendly plants
Planting pollinator friendly plants will help the bees in your garden to survive another season. For your pots and window boxes its recommended that you plant species such as Borage, Chives, Lavender, Rosemary, and Tyme! And you can use some of these herbs in the kitchen too!
Keeping away pesticides
Eliminate pesticide use in your garden as these chemicals can be harmful to pollinators. By not spraying herbicide and leaving the ‘weedy’ plants to grow by themselves you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, effort and money! Also you’ll be making sure that all the insects are fed and rested in your lovely flower patch.
We can all do so much to help biodiversity, we just need to try.
Find out more information to help biodiversity in your garden, your estate or farm on the site of All-Ireland Pollinator plan
Article written by Luke Myers