Thank you Katherine

This is a personal thank you to Katherine in County Wicklow who wrote me a lovely letter about her garden. I’ve never had a letter like that from a reader and I will treasure it. Thank you. I particularly liked your description of the blue tit that looked like Zorro.

Katherine had seen my blog but wasn’t sure about asking a question on it so wrote to me instead. Her question was ‘how can I clear my overgrown patch without disturbing any wildlife living in it?’

The answer is we will always disturb some wildlife, whatever we do in the garden. Even digging soil will distrub complex communities of soil organisms. The answer is to create a garden that offers a permanent home to a greater variety of garden creatures than the one that exists already. Thus in the long term the work you do is better for wildlife.

I recently took down an old chicken house in my garden because it was rotting and in danger of falling over. During the take down I found a toad, a birds nest (which I believe was the nest of a wren I had seen around the chicken house earlier in the year) and numerous species of spiders, insects and rot lovers like woodlice and milipedes. The chicken house had been a feature in the garden for many years and was obviously home to lots of creatures who relied on its slightly damp shady atmosphere. But it is a small part of my garden and there are lots of other similar patches for all these creatures to move into. Also with the chicken house gone I have opened up a much bigger space for gardening, which in itself will bring new wildlife.

As you suggest, dealing with one small patch of your garden at a time seems the answer – leaving the rest as it is until you have time to move into the next patch. This sounds like it will be better for you anyway. You sound like you will be making good choices for wildlife as you go so I think the things you put in place of the wild patch will be better for a wider variety of wildlife in the long run. You could come up with a sketch of how you want the garden to be and then work towards it, reclaiming a little at a time and putting into place something that will be of equal and perhaps greater value to wildlife than what you have at the moment.

Nature is always disturbing wildlife – a downed tree in a storm, a flooded river bank, a burnt forest. Sometimes such events are exactly what some species need to thrive. So think of yourself as a benign natural force for good in your garden.

I hope this helps. Feel free to write again if you have other questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.

Best wishes

Little Book of Compost out in two weeks

I’m really pleased to say that my new book The Little Book of Compost is out in two weeks time. Its very cute. Collins have done a really nice design job on it like they did with The Organic Garden and it makes a great gift for Christmas. I’ve written it like a recipe book so you start off with the easy ‘soil in the bag’ and move through to the Hot Turnover and compost tea. I’ve made it really fun but with enough information in there for the serious compost lover too. I hope it captures the imagination and gets more people loving compost. It’s going to be available on the counter at every Waterstones in Britain so you should be able to pick a copy up easily. If you want a signed copy you can get them from CAT (01654 705959 – – remember to ask for a signed copy.) There is a postage charge from CAT but check out some of the other great stuff they sell on the new shopping site that opens this week And if you want to see me talk about composting on TV check out part one of the videos below.

Organic Basics on New Consumer TV

Back in the summer when it was…mmm…dry and sunny for just one day, I took a trip to Yalding Organic Gardens near Coventry to do some TV recording for New Consumer TV. We talked about compost, pest control, water management, biodiversity. This is part one. Hope you enjoy.

Lawnmower man

Hey check this out. I love these guys. Don’t know whether it works or not but looks pretty cool and I don’t know why it wouldn’t. If you’re bored with pushing a mower over your grass every week or tired of putting petrol in your mower, not to mention worried about the carbon emissions each cut produces how about getting hold of a bike mower.

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