Our action this week is a cheap, fun and easy one.
We are asking you to plant just 1 square meter of wild flower bed in your garden, or elsewhere with the landowners permission.
Why is this important?
We have drawn on the Grow Wild website for this article.
Wildflowers support insects and other wildlife. We need a wide range of wildflowers to provide our pollinators (bees and other insects) with food sources across the seasons, especially when crops aren’t flowering. Our fruits, vegetables and nuts rely heavily on insect pollination, for example strawberries, raspberries, cherries and apples need to be pollinated by insects to get a good crop.
Even more reasons to do this
Insects and other animals also help in the fight against crop pests. Farmers may have to rely even more heavily on pesticides if they can’t help.
Wildflowers are beautiful and provide us with habitats that buzz with life. There are also strong cultural bonds that exist with recognisable species, for example poppies, which remind us of lives lost in world wars, or dandelions and daisies which may remind us of childhood summers.
Wildflowers provide insects with food in the form of leaves, nectar and pollen, and also shelter and places to breed. In return, insects pollinate the wildflowers, enabling them to develop seeds and spread to grow in other places. The insects themselves are eaten by birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals, all of whom contribute to the cycle of life. During winter when there is less food available, wildflower seeds can also be an important food source for birds and small mammals.
Wildflowers can also help keep soil healthy when they spread their roots. This means that when there is a lot of rainfall, soil particles and nutrients stored in the ground stick around and the soil stays healthy. This is especially important on hillsides, where sloping ground is easily washed away if there aren’t root systems to hold the soil in place.
Even worse, without plants to stabilise soil, nutrients can get washed into nearby water systems. This causes problems where algae spread and can even make the water toxic.
It is important to try and distinguish between wildflowers that are native to your country and those that have been introduced from somewhere else, usually by man. Native wildflowers have grown and evolved for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years in the climate and environment of your country, alongside other life, often benefiting each other. They can also be easier to grow and look after than non-natives.
Non-native wildflowers can sometimes have a negative impact on the native wildflowers that are already growing here, by introducing disease or taking water, space or pollination by insects. They may be difficult to remove once they are established and threaten local wildflower populations.
What about weeds?
Grow Wild describes weeds as “just plants that are in the wrong place“! For example, many consider the UK dandelion to be a weed, since their plants spread quickly and can be difficult to remove. However, dandelion flowers are an important source of food for bees and other pollinators early in the season.
Many wildflowers that grow in crops are considered to be weeds because they can reduce crop yields and their seeds can contaminate harvests. However, on modern farmland, wildflowers are now mostly confined to field margins or dedicated wildflower areas.
So how can I help native wildflowers?
You can learn more about growing wildflowers at Grow Wild in the UK. If you are in another country the information is probably still valid except perhaps where native species are mentioned.
Generally, you can plant seeds by sowing or scattering in a suitable area of soil or grass, and apart from in the harshest weather, you can sow all year round.
You can buy wildflower seeds in your local garden centre shop or simply search online for “wildflower seeds”.
Why is this important?
Even small area 1 metre by 1 metre can make a difference. Why not set aside a small patch of your garden. In return, you will be:
- helping to maintain an important ecosystem of insects, flowers and other wildlife
- limiting the use of pesticides
- maintaining our population of pollinating insects
- creating beautiful colourful displays
- supporting bird life and animal life
- preserving native cultural and heritage flowers
- stabilising soils and helping the water cycle
Finally, if you can, why not talk to your local school, church, parish council, park attendants or others about creating a community wildflower bed? This can be even more effective and in addition will help to beautify our urban areas.