Connecting people and green spaces

Embrace Your Weeds


Want to see more of these Butterflies and Moths in your garden? Then embrace your weeds

Many of you may wonder what you can do to have a more wildlife friendly garden, especially to encourage more moths and butterflies. Gardens really are an increasingly important habitat for wildlife for many reasons. A wildlife friendly garden to me, is one which encompasses these following ways of gardening. It’s quite a simple approach, and can be easy to use once you begin to change your gardening habits.

1. If you can, have as much green and varied growth as possible, and less hard landscaping. If you do have a driveway then add pots or containers. They needn’t be expensive as most large containers will work well, as long as they have drainage holes.

2. Have or retain hedges (as opposed to fences) which include Bramble, Ivy, Hawthorn, Blackthorn and yes! Hedge Bindweed! These provide food and shelter for birds, and the larvae of many moths and caterpillars who have a particular preference for these food sources.

Ivy, Rock Rose ,Hawthorn, Bramble flower ,Bind weed, Ivy

3. Include trees if you have room, especially Oak, Willow, Birch ,Elm and Apple trees. These too are essential for the larvae of many moths and many other insects and mammals that rely on them too.

4. Important Plants for moths and butterflies. The illustration above, depicts some of the most important plants for butterflies, but the full list is much longer. Nettles are a very important plant for Butterflies and Moths. Other desirable plants, if you can manage to grow them, are in no particular order:  Garlic Mustard, Devil’s Bit Scabious, Cowslip, Primrose, Sheep’s Sorrel, Horse shoe vetch, Rock rose, Kidney Vetch, Trefoils, Cinquefoils, Bedstraws, and Heathers, Dandelions and Docks, Comfrey and even Sow Thistles.

Bramble flower cowslip primrose

5. Meadow grasses are hugely important, not only for Moths and Butterflies but for all pollinators and other insects, as they also feed on the nectar from the grasses. I just leave grasses to grow in patches around the lawn area and within my borders and they can look really pretty. It is important if you only have a lawn to only mow on a very high setting (to protect any mammals) and to only mow in paths. See Plantlife’s “No Mow May” campaign. Also try and go round with a stick to warn off larger mammals like hedgehogs before you mow. If you don’t yet have meadow grasses in your garden they may blow over in time or alternatively many native wild flower seed packs contain them.

Sorrell, Bromus, Nettles
Bromus, Ribwort Plantain, Meadow Grass

6. Even having a wild area and letting is just grow wild and free for a bit will help. Again a patch of nettles will be hugely helpful. Also natives (“weeds” to some), can look really pretty interplanted or left to grow in between your favourite perennials, shrubs and annuals. It’s hard to resist the urge to pull up dandelions, sow thistles and nettles etc. I know as a jobbing gardener for some years, it was what was required of me from the clients. Now I am learning to embrace my weeds and even eat them!

For many years we were told that native plants were weeds – essentially a very bad thing to be removed at all cost (think of the weedkiller advertisements with the dandelions)

Sow thistle and Osteospermum, Sow thistle, Garlic Mustard
Dandelion, Horseshoe Vetch, Corn marigold

7. Think of your garden as a whole ecosystem. Just because a plant isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as you would like, think of it as being part of your garden’s ecosystem and remember some creature somewhere, will probably rely on it. The system can work really well on its own, what we consider as unfriendly bugs are taken care of by predators and invariably have a role to play somewhere in your garden.

This gardening approach will not only benefit butterflies and moths but pollinating insects and bees, birds will feed on the insects and nest in your hedges.

lastly ….

Be organic, do not use pesticides or weed killers at all cost, this is essential for a wildlife friendly, organic garden.

Be untidy, have a wild patch and don’t be in a rush to ‘tidy’ your garden

Have as many different plants as you can

Have as many native plants as you can

Keep your hedges

Remember to think of your garden as a whole ecosystem and that it can invariably work better for you and wildlife with as little intervention as possible.

Don’t forget to embrace your weeds!!

Julia Stofa.

You can find my other musings and photos on my Instagram and Facebook pages Greenlifeonthesouthdowns

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