Wildlife friendly gardening

Our Horsham Climate Cafe on 5th September was an inspiring and informative talk about Wildlife Friendly Gardening.  Every green space is critical for our wildlife, even your garden, as all our UK gardens form more space than all the UK nature reserves!

Carrie the founder of Sussex Green Living opened the event with a reminder that we humans are not at the top of a wildlife pyramid but are simply part of the web of all life.  All the living things in an ecosystem depend on all the other things – living and non-living for continued survival – for food supplies and other needs.  Humans, animals and plants depend on a complex system of food for survival. Stressing the importance of using bug hotels, bird boxes and bat boxes in our gardens, but be aware that bats need about 1,000 mosquito type insects per hour, so a pond is almost essential!

Joanne Knowles was our second speaker who is passionate about encouraging us all to seek out peat -free compost.

She explained that peat bogs are a unique habitat which has all but been destroyed (only 10% now remains in the UK). Most of this peat is simply used by amateur gardeners who don’t realise that it may take up to 100 years to fully be restored in the wild wetland areas.  As is usual, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the extraction and use of peat.  Peat is NOT live soil, so the all-important microbes that healthy soil needs are not present.  It’s low in nutrients but is little more than a mulch.  John Innes has a peat-free recipe for making compost on its website.

Locally, Olus Heritage Products in Henfield  run a “bag for life” system, where they are able to re-fill and deliver 1 ton sacks of compost for

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around £60.

Woolshred, another Horsham based business sell shredded fleeces and chicken poo and nettle-based fertilisers!

A Rudgwick nursery www.prenplants.co.uk sell peat-free plants locally, and the Soil Association is also a good resource.

Unfortunately, Horsham District Council is not good at buying in plants grown in peat-free medium.

would love to hear from people who would like to help her campaign to encourage local nurseries to grown peat-free, and local garden centres to sell peat-free plants and compost.  Amazingly, one hectare of peat bog holds the same amount of carbon as one hectare of rainforest, so why it is sold so cheaply is a mystery!

View Natalie’s powerpoint presenation here

Our second speaker Natalie owns Coolham Blooms, a local green business, growing plastic-free, chemical-free, cut flowers.  In the UK £865 million per annum are spent on the luxury of cut flowers.  However, only 14% are grown in the UK.  The advantages of Coolham Blooms is not only low flower-miles but also that delicate varieties can be grown and importantly, only natural pesticides and fertilisers are used.

Fertiliser suggestions were fish tank water, banana peel for potassium, tea leaves (Clipper tea bags are plastic -free), coffee grounds for acid loving plants and ash from wood burning stoves for alkaline plants.

Pest deterant suggestions included using a smidge of soap or oil in a water spray to suffocate insect pests, mint leaves to deter ants and chilli, lavender, alliums or garlic flakes and herbs as scented deterrents for bugs.  Crushed eggshells of wool pellets can be used for as obstacles to deter slugs.

Avoiding plastics and being creative about plant pot substitutes is wonderful too- using loo rolls, newspaper cups, and old yogurt pots as planters.

Action for this Autumn:  It’s that time to start thinking about planting native bulbs and getting in your orders for fruit and nut trees. Here is a list of companies specialising in UK plants and those grown for a changing climate:
Plants for a future www.pfaf.org
Agroforestry permaculture trees  www.agroforestry.co.uk
Taking initiative for the survival of the honey bee www.beeguardian.org
Thanks to Glennie Kindred and her book Letting in the Wild Edges for this list

Other local news and invitations discussed:

  • A celebration of the Recycling Hub at the Unitarian Church Hall in Horsham will be held on 30th September to thank those who helped raise the £2,000 needed.
  • Extinction Rebellion Horsham was involved in supporting a group who passed through Horsham pushing a lightship from Brighton to London. A lightship is a warning and the good ship “Greta” represented the 32 years of warnings from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change about the dangers of imminent Climate Chaos.  Mark Francis flagged up that there are already 25 million climate refugees worldwide, and yet our press and government are not acting urgently.

Mark suggested asking our MP Mr Quin to support the new Climate and Ecology Emergency Bill which has been prepared based on these IPCC reports. Further plans in relation to this will be discussed at future Horsham Future Forum and Horsham Climate Cafe meetings.

  • Alison Marshall from Transition Horsham is aiming towards a seed/seedling/produce market stall in Horsham market on three different dates in 2021, which Sussex Green Living, Horsham Repair Cafe and Horsham Climate Cafe aim to take the new eco-float to as well!
  • Look out for The Horsham Youth Eco Forum holding an exciting and unusual event in the woods at The Haven, learn more here.
  • Horsham Future Forum and Youth Eco Forum zooms on Wednesday evenings.

Learn about other ways of helping the planet and saving money through growing and food swapping from an earlier Horsham Climate Cafe here.

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