Creation of a small Sustainable Wild Garden
This paper describes personal experiences and benefits of creating a sustainable wildflower garden.
Creating a wildflower garden with local plants is a sustainable approach to gardening. When I bought a small house our front garden (lucky us – there are two gardens in front and in the back of the house) consisted out of plaster stones – in our neighborhood many gardens are sealed with stones – what a shame. Living space in urban areas is scare and a rare resource anyway. Most surfaces are sealed with housing, industrial complexes, streets and pavements, bureaus, etc. Therefore all green spaces are living spaces for humans, animals and plants.
Local flora and local fauna may face problems in densely populated urban areas – therefore the creation of small patches of wildflower gardens will help local insects and local plants to have a refuge…
Many people in my neighborhood do not think about the issue and simply seal off their gardens, because in this way (they think) it is easier to keep the garden orderly (apparently an important issue with gardening in urban areas) and they need to invest a minimum amount of care and time (figure 1).
Picture of a normal front garden in my street (left hand side) – my newly re-created wildflower garden is on the right hand side). © Carsten Weerth
- Water runs off into water pipes causing flooding of cellars when heavy rain falls.
- Water runs off and soil is being lost when heavy rainfalls occur.
- No living space for local plants and animals.
- Hot microclimate because stones are reflecting sunbeams and heat up urban areas (micro climate change due to sealed of spaces in town).
III. Benefits of wildflower gardens are obvious:
- Living space for local plants and animals,
- better microclimate because soil takes up water and gives water to plants and into the air when sunbeams are hitting the surface (precipitation),
- run off of water and water/soil is minimized – flooding events in streets and cellars are prevented.
- Your neighborhood might see you as green weirdoes and outsiders… (see my blog on social implications on creating a wild flower garden).
V. Steps to re-create a natural
The first step to create a wildflower garden is to take up all stones and get rid of them (or re-use them).
Then you have to decide how you get new soil into your new garden. Since my front garden only is 12 square-meters I bought sacks of soil and distributed them in the garden.
VI. Choosing the right plants
As the next crucial step you have to think about the light and heat conditions in your garden – which plants are suitable and durable, which are of local origin an how to acquire them?
What happens/has happened in my garden?
My front garden is developing amazingly from year to year – the first year was a start and during the second year many new plants were planted/arrived.
When I started nothing was there (because it was a sealed off garden).
After preparing the garden with the new soil I bought a couple of very durable plants and put them in (e.g. genus Sedum spp., Saxifraga spp., Campanula spp., Phyteuma, Potentilla spp., Viverparum Spp., Geranium Spp.) and also collected local plants in their local places and put them in (again Sedum) and I seeded local plant mixes (e.g. corn flower, poppies, Papaver spp., Viola spp.).
When I started nothing but stone was in the garden.
After one year the following ecosystem was created:
This picture shows the newly re-created garden after 1.5 years from above – a new little ecosystem was created. © Carsten Weerth
List of Plants:
- Sedum (5 species),
- Saxifraga (3 species),
- Sempervivum (3 species),
- Campanula (3 species),
- Phyteuma (1 species),
- Geranium (3 species),
- Potentilla (3 species),
- Aquilegia (2 species),
- one apple tree (Malus spp.),
- one pear tree (Pyrus spp.),
- Cotoneaster (2 species),
- Asteraceae (six species),
- Forgetmenots (Myosotis spp.),
- Minuartia spp.,
- Lavender (Lavendula spp.),
- Broom (Genister spp.),
- Brassica raba,
- an Oak seedling (Quercus spp.),
- Corn flower (Centaurea cyanus),
- Rape (Brassica napus),
- Poppy (Papaver spp.),
- Armeria maritima,
- Labularia maritima.
Some pioneer plants are building the first generation and will produce many seeds so that these plants will flourish there again (poppies, forgetmenots), some are durable and grow rhizomas that will survive winter in the ground and grow again the next years to come (Campanulaceae), some are durable alpine plants which will survive winter as a green plant that during summer is mostly fit to live on small amounts of water (e.g. Sedum, Saxifrage, Viverparum), and sole are growing wooden parts which will survive winter (e.g. Broom, Cotoneaster)…
Poppies are pioneer plants – seeds out of my garden spread into other small spaces with enough earth to grow a couple of poppies. © Carsten Weerth
List of animals living in my newly re-created garden:
- Ants (Formicidae),
- Spiders (Arachnida),
- Firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus),
- Bees (Apiformes) (visiting),
- Hummelbees (Bombus spp.) (visiting),
- Beetles (Coleoptera) (visiting),
- Butterflies (Lepidoptera) (visiting),
- Birds (Aves) (visiting),
- Cats (Felis silvestris catus) (visiting).
When I created the garden I did a zoning with three zones: low plants (between 1 cm and 15 cm above ground) for about 2 meters at the street (the outer boundary of the garden), a middle section with middle high plants (between 15 cm and 30 cm) and a section next to the house with very durable plants that can grow larger up to 1 m).
When I started to crate the garden it was plastered with small plaster stones underneath which was placed rubble stones. All plaster stones and rubble stones were removed. I bought brown very fertile earth and put it above the natural rather sandy soil. During the first years the soils will intermingle by help of roots and animal live/bacteria/fungi in the soil. A new mixture will be created and additionally the input from plant and animal material will occur.
The use of real local earth would have been desirable, but this is rather difficult to accomplish (how to get the earth and how to transport it…).
Soil will be important for the microclimate: it stores water and holds water back, it enriches the air, it stores minerals and other organic material important for the nourishment of plants and animals… The plants on the soil and its roots will enable to aerate the soil and to make it stay in place even in events of strong rain (extreme weather events and rainfalls), thereby it reduces runoff and helps to prevent local flooding events.
Plant coverage also allows for a better O2 level in cities, a lower albedo-factor and the temperatures are not getting as high as without plant coverage (e.g. when the areas are sealed with stones). Some plants (e.g. Sedum) help to lower the particle concentration in urban areas.
X. Natural Cycles began to run
The natural water, carbon, nitride cycles to name the most important, have begun to run and natural energy flows have started – nature is claiming back a little space that was destroyed earlier… This small natural garden runs sustainable…
Dozens of native plants and other wildflowers have found a new place to live and produce oxigen, save the soil and contribute to a better micro climate - the newly re-created garden is preventing flash flooding of the area.
Animals arrived and are thriving: ants, spiders, insects (Bees, Coleoptoera, Lepidoptera)… Now a cat likes to sit in the green and enjoys the sun and the jungle of green spaces…
So do the human beings living in the house nearby and most passing neighbors…
A little peaceful natural sanctuary in an urban area has been re-