The Small Ecological Garden
by Sue Stickland
pub. Search Press / HDRA, 1996
Paperback, 48 pages, £5.95
ISBN 0 085532 773 1
A short, yet absorbing book, 'The Small Ecological Garden' was of interest to Countrylovers.co.uk since a couple of people listed on the website are, or have, developed wildlife gardens of their own.
Experienced gardeners will probably know the technical aspects of much that is included within this book's pages. What is different, however, is the slant and approach which all this know-how is directed towards, namely the Ecological or Wildlife Garden. In short, this small book focusses the mind on developing gardens not dedicated to roses and prize chrysanths.
Ecological gardening, according to the author's introduction, means getting to know your garden's soil, aspect and climate, and thence to choose plants that naturally suit the conditions.
Interestingly, we are informed that: 'the total area of domestic gardens in the UK is greater than that covered by the country's nature reserves', and can provide a refuge for wildlife which is being displaced from habitats destroyed by road and building development, and modern farming methods.
'The Small Ecological Garden' will help you plan a wildlife garden conceptually rather than lay out dimensions, and points out how to develop microclimates suitable to different plant varieties. You'll learn, for example, how fences, walls and hedges can all be used to modify local conditions around the garden, with advice on mixing differtent types of species within a hedge.
There are sections on soil types and feeding the soil (with hand-made compost, naturally), and many pages on choosing plants for different conditions - hot dry areas, windy areas, and dry shade. The author devotes specific sections on growing plants to attract birds, butterflies, bees and insects. Hoverflies and lacewings, for example, are partial to aphids, spider mites and caterpillars. As the author reminds us in her introduction: 'In a garden with a flourishing wildlife community, each creature has its enemies and a natural balance will be established'.
There are tips, too, on creating habitats for wildlife in your ecological garden - log piles for hedgehogs, dry-stone walling, nesting boxes, bird tables, and designing a wildlife pond. However, the book deals with the conceptual side of the latter items rather than providing building instructions and dimensions to construct your own.
Your weeds should be under control once you have followed the advice the author offers, while there are suggestions on the inclusion of meadow plant areas, herb lawns, and including wild flowers within the overall garden plant mix.
'The Small Ecological Garden' may not be a grand, voluminous tome, yet its pages will focus your mind on the practicalities of creating a wildlife garden haven without bogging you down with lots of technical detail. Its pages 'inform' rather than 'preach' about the benefits of ecological gardening, and do not assume that the reader is an experienced gardener.
Published by Search Press in Association with the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HRDA) the pages are copiously illustrated with photographs, plus the occasional artist's graphic, which will be helpful to the novice or amateur gardeners in particular. That said, this book could prove to be a source of inspiration to experienced gardeners and a prompt to set aside part of your broad acres as a wildlife garden.
Search Press have a number of other related publications which may be of interest to you:
Gardening Without Water - Charlotte Green
Living Willow - Jon Warnes
Beds: Labour-saving, Space-saving, More Productive Gardening - Pauline Pears
Soil Care & Management - Jo Readman
Healthy Fruit & Vegetables - Pauline Pears & Bob Shearman
Weeds: How to Control and Love Them - Jo Readman
How to Grow Culinary Herbs & Spices the Natural Way - Charlotte de la Bedoyere