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:

Caterpillar on a whitebeam leaf.

Caterpillar on a whitebeam leaf.

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.

Bumblebees love phacelia, which isn't a native plant to the UK

Bumblebees love phacelia, which isn't a native plant to the UK

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.

2017: you will often see dragonflies and damselfies flying over the pond and bats at dusk.

2017: you will often see dragonflies and damselfies flying over the pond and bats at dusk.

Providing shelter habitats for birds, insects (including bees, butterflies and moths) and small mammals like bats and hedgehogs.

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.

Preparing the menu for the Bird Cafe

Preparing the menu for the Bird Cafe

In January 2016, we set up a Bird Cafe with lots of birdfeeders. We fill the feeders in the winter season but could do it more regularly if we had more volunteers.

We a Soft Fruit Aisle, although we hope the birds might leave a few berries and currants for us to eat.


Trying to garden sustainably

June 2017: self-sown annuals by the pond's fence

June 2017: self-sown annuals by the pond's fence

Avoiding using garden chemicals, especially pesticides.

In 2017, we experimented with avoiding using glyphosate to prepare the annual meadow 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). 

December 2015. making a stand out of palets and donated roofing felt for the wheelie bin waterbutts

December 2015. making a stand out of palets and donated roofing felt for the wheelie bin waterbutts

Collecting and sharing seeds. we collect seeds from the garden.

Compost bins are the engine of a garden

Compost bins are the engine of a 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.

2015, in the former green area: we have a thin layer of very sandy, stone-free soil overlying a layer of clinker and then clay. Sometimes the clinker is much thicker than this and often there is a layer of hardcore too.

2015, in the former green area: we have a thin layer of very sandy, stone-free soil overlying a layer of clinker and then clay. Sometimes the clinker is much thicker than this and often there is a layer of hardcore too.

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 like to enhance 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.

Trying not to lose too much of the precious top soil from the green... the kneeler was made from playground felt offcuts

Trying not to lose too much of the precious top soil from the green... the kneeler was made from playground felt offcuts

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...)

It is amazing how much wood you can harvest from a fence in a couple of hours and also pack into a car. The saw was rescued from a skip too. All with permission!

It is amazing how much wood you can harvest from a fence in a couple of hours and also pack into a car. The saw was rescued from a skip too. All with permission!

Sourcing used and waste materials and tools, up-cycling and sharing what we don't need or use.

These scythes and tools belong to the City Council but now we have our own scythe. Scything is supposed to be bumblebee-friendly too (or better than using a brush cutter).

These scythes and tools belong to the City Council but now we have our own scythe. Scything is supposed to be bumblebee-friendly too (or better than using a brush cutter).

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.

January 2016. picking up some bark chippings from a local allotment site using a cycle trailer.

January 2016. picking up some bark chippings from a local allotment site using a cycle trailer.

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. 

In 2015, our meadow beds were full of wildlife but also incredibly popular with people of all ages.

Useful links

See the new Cambridge Wild webpage for some other links to groups and places.

Last updated: 13 July 2017