A Compost Heap:
|A compost heap provides habitat for the larval stages of insects (eg certain species of Soldier Fly Stratiomyidae, Rose Chafers Cetonia aurata); nesting sites for reptiles (eg Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus); and a source of nutrients for fungal mycorrhiza. The flies, beetles and fungi are all acting to break down the organic matter in the compost heap so you can recycle the nutrients back into the garden soil. The snake is simply using the heat, humidity and protection of a pile of rotting plant material as a safe and comfortable nest and hibernacle. Non-venomous snakes such as this are no threat to your safety in the garden and will help keep down the population of nut, vegetable and root munching small rodents (such as voles and mice).|
A 'Wild Flower' Meadow:
|This 'wild' flower meadow is at la Chatonniere. A mixture of native and non-native seeds are sown in conjunction with a cereal crop such as oats to form a flowery meadow in the summer.|
|The flowers include Field Poppies, Californian Poppies (not native), Annual Cornflowers and Viper's Bugloss. The choice of flowers is partly aesthetic, but also to encourage biodiversity in this organic garden.|
|The flowers attract pollinators and the undisturbed long vegetation allows bumble bees to nest safely. Many small creatures will be attracted to the unmown, untreated site.|
If your garden is large enough, or includes an area such as an orchard, one of the easiest ways of managing parts of it are as semi-natural grassland ie native grass rather than lawn, with self seeded wildflowers. It differs from the 'Wildflower Meadow' above because there is no need to augment the plants by sowing extra seed. This type of grass requires mowing just once a year, in September. By this time in the season all the wildflowers will have set seed, and what is left to mow won't be too lush. You can safely leave the mown 'grass' on the ground and it will not increase the fertility of the soil. The system saves a lot of time and effort. You keep woody species (eg self seeded trees) under control and prevent scrub developing because you cut them off annually, and you prevent many weed species (eg nettles) from dominating as the soil remains low in fertility. If you wish you can mow paths through the grass throughout the year, but you must take the clippings away. It is a good idea to stake plants that you particularly wish to protect from being stood on or mowed over in the spring and summer.
If you want to put a bit more work in to maintaining the natural grass and wildflowers and have the time, you can choose to rake up the mown grass rather than leave it lie. The resulting 'hay' can be deposited around fruit trees. The action of raking will lift matted vegetation, reduce soil fertility and create random bare areas for wild flower seeds to germinate and thrive with less competition from the grass. You can also grub out the woody 'volunteers' if you are feeling strong and energetic. It will prevent them coppicing from repeated cutting and annual growth cycles and forming trip hazards or eventually getting too thick for the mower to cope with.
You will be amazed at the variety of wildflowers that will spontaneous appear. With the wildflowers will come bees, butterflies and flower visiting beetles. Dragonflies will appreciate the longer vegetation, as will small mammals and reptiles. Having an area of semi-natural grassland is probably the single easiest and most effective way of increasing and maintaining the biodiversity of your garden.
|An orchid leaf rosette amongst the grass and other wildflowers in the winter, carefully staked so as to mark its position and protect it from being trodden on or mowed over.|