Introduction to garden management for wildlife
By Steve Head
Garden Management is the bit of our website that discusses the practical aspects of gardening with wildlife in mind - except for the key areas of planting and habitat creation.
It is fair to say that while studies have shown the overall biodiversity of gardens, and there is extensive horticultural knowledge of how some plants (and vegetables) respond to management, we have very little hard scientific evidence about how typical garden management directly affects garden wildlife.
As a prominent example, it may seem a no-brainer to many people that using chemicals in the garden is bad for wildlife. It's quite clear that extensive use of insecticides in the environment is very harmful, and fertiliser use promotes grass at the expense of wild plants, and can cause eutrophication in water courses.
On the other hand, what is the actual impact evidence for typical, small scale use of permitted chemicals in gardens, according to the instructions on the bottle? It is hardly likely to be positive for wildlife, but can we actually detect an impact? This would be an expensive and complex research project, but until it has been done, we cannot say that careful use of chemicals is anathema to garden wildlife. Many wildlife gardeners will however continue to follow the precautionary principle and avoid chemicals as much as they can! It is interesting that so many sellers are offering "organic" or "wildlife-safe" herbicides and pesticides. In truth, if these do work they are damaging to wildlife. If they don't they aren't worth buying.
Other management options are less controversial, but generally equally under-researched. What is the impact of annual deep digging on life in soil? If we avoided compaction by never standing on the soil and eliminated digging, would there be measurable benefits?
It is important to remember that many studies have shown how biodiverse ordinary gardens can be without special management techniques. It’s likely then that typical garden management isn’t too damaging for wildlife – but it would be good to have the facts!
We plan to have the following pages within this section of the website
There are several "How-to" guides on garden management to download and you can find them through these pages:
Please also let us know if there are other management topics you would like us to cover.
Page written by Steve Head