We are very keen to 'work with nature' in the garden (Chapter in recent City Council guide on 'Greening your garden'). These are some of the ways we can aim to do this:
Being observant and learning from what we find. We'd also like to share our findings with others to help them make their gardens and workplaces more biodiverse.
Planting wisely. Selecting native plants and trees but also ones that provide a long season of food including nectar (recent RHS paper on use of plants from many countries). Avoiding plants that need a lot of watering or soil manipulation.
Avoiding plants that have potential to be hazardous unless we think they have very good properties for biodiversity and it is unlikely people will try to eat them or we can keep them away from irritant sap.
In late 2016, we created a nature pond, which is already attracting lots of wildlife - and people.
Not disturbing bird nesting - between early March to the end of August.
Providing food for birds, pollinators and small mammals.
In January 2016, we set up a Bird Cafe with lots of birdfeeders. We filled the feeders in the first two winter seasons, but could do it more regularly if we had more volunteers.
We planted a Soft Fruit Aisle, although we hope the birds might leave a few berries and currants for us to eat.
Trying to garden sustainably
Avoiding using garden chemicals, especially pesticides.
In 2017, we experimented with avoiding using glyphosate to prepare the annual meadow beds - we just about got away with it on all but two beds.
We do some experiments with narrow beds and different kinds of raised beds. We are also turning some of the annual meadow beds into perennial planting.
Not using peat in the garden, because it degrades other environments.
Collecting rainwater and trying not to use mains water too much (Chapter on Saving water in recent City Council guide).
Collecting and sharing seeds. we collect seeds from the garden.
Composting - we generate lots of greens in the garden, some volunteers bring us their kitchen waste and we pick up coffee grounds from our local cafe too.
Keeping waste to a minimum, using it to make compost, raised beds or structures, taking bin waste back to recycle in our own household bins.
Respecting and improving the soil structure - we ought to test our soil more often (RHS members can access a soil analysis service). In general, in the green area, we will try to mulch on top of clearer soil and let worms do the hard work rather than deep digging.
We'd tried out enhancing the mycorhizi in the soil by using Rootmore (or similar sources).
Sourcing materials locally where possible and trying to support independent suppliers. We try to grow our own plants from seed or propagation or buy plants from local nurseries - unless we are seduced by low-cost plant offers from the big chains.
Choosing hand tools rather than electric or petrol-powered ones where possible.
Preparing the narrow beds, kneeling down and with hand forks, was surprisingly popular because you can chat while you do it.
Tolerating untidiness - wildlife likes it (and some of us find this very easy...)
Sourcing used and waste materials and tools, up-cycling and sharing what we don't need or use.
Starting a tool library to share with other groups (see our wishlist). As part of an RHS grant, we have been given lots of wonderful Bulldog tools, including for children to use.
Using cycles, feet and public transport as much as possible (Chapter in recent City Council guide on Sustainable transport)..
We don't just want to encourage nature though - we also want to make a garden for everyone to enjoy - even just as a place to sit and ponder.
Since 2015, our meadow beds have been full of wildlife but also incredibly popular with people of all ages.
See the new Cambridge Wild webpage for some other links to groups and places.
Last updated: 4 April 2018