Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Biodiversity on the Balcony, Patio, Porch...

For many, the concept of 'urban gardening' is limited to filling a flat with foliage, placing pots sporadically on the balcony, or even pottering around Kew Gardens one afternoon. As the London Vegetable Garden project prepares to celebrate its first birthday, I hope that many of these blinkered views have at the very least, been allayed; the simple truth however is that city dwellers remain unaware of just how much they can do, regardless of how much garden space they have.

You may not consider your humble balcony, porch or patio an 'ecosystem', but the small section of city concrete that houses washing lines, bicycles and cigarette stubs could very easily be transformed into an urban oasis that encourages plants and wildlife to grow. The reasoning behind this, aside from turning a bleak city space into a pleasant natural environment, is simple: the promotion of biodiversity.

It is no secret that on a global level, biodiversity (the variation of life within a certain ecosystem) is in decline. But did you know that this year is the International Year of Biodiversity? The Royal Horticultural Society is marking the IYB on May 22nd and aims to promote a collective effort that draws attention to this loss – as well as spurring us on to do something about it.

Whilst there are several things that those fortunate enough to have gardens can do to help mark the IYB, those with smaller spaces needn't think they are limited to smaller efforts. Here are simply a few of the things that the RHS recommends followers of the London Vegetable Garden can do to help promote biodiversity – and the best thing is, you don't need a sprawling garden on a country estate!

For those limited to a balcony (a category in which I currently include myself), there are several plants that attract bees – a campaign that is currently gaining some serious weight. For the more adventurous, a few bits of wood and some hollow bamboo canes are all that is needed to create a 'bee hotel' – simply click here to find out how to make one.

Urban gardeners with patios have slightly more free rein. Rotting wood is both home and food for an array of bugs, with log piles offering shelter in summer and frost-free hibernation in summer. Alternatively, compost caf├ęs are one of the most positive things anyone with a garden can do to reduce landfill and enrich their soil, as well as attracting wildlife in their own right – see how you can make one right here.

These are simply three ways in which urban gardeners can get involved with the International Year of Biodiversity and help to stop the worrying trend for declining biodiversity. For more details on the IYB and to see how you can get involved using your urban garden, patio or balcony, simply visit the dedicated page on The Royal Horticultural Website by clicking here.

Now check the following post to see how you can win a year's free membership to the RHS!

2 comments:

  1. Apart from the biodiversity issue (which, of course, is very important) do you really think it's a good idea to run a bee hotel on your balcony? Where will you have your beer or lemonade or bbq this summer?

    But I'll make sure to leave some rotting wood in the back of my patch of wannabegarden.

    Deborah

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  2. Ha ha - point duly noted! A bee hotel on the balcony may not be suitable for everyone, but for those who rarely use their balcony, this is simply one of a thousand different ideas you can employ to help promote biodiversity this year.

    But as Deborah says, make sure not to choose this option if you plan on using your balcony over the summer!

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