Gardens and Green Spaces
Peat free gardening
This garden centre is just outside our Borough but we were so impressed with what they have achieved that we had to include the details here! Morden Hall Park Garden Centre is a National Trust Garden Centre which has worked with its suppliers to make sure that ALL the plants it sells are peat-free. They have now achieved their goal of being entirely peat free.
The Epsom & Ewell Tree Advisory Board (EETAB)
The Epsom & Ewell Tree Advisory Board is a well-established volunteer group helping to safeguard the borough's trees. EETAB carry out practical work including planting projects in parks and schools, seeks to protect existing trees in the borough and promotes tree planting projects, particularly the replacement of street trees. Residents can volunteer to become a Tree Champion, to help to care for trees in their road or local park. More details can be found on their website and Facebook page.
Gardening for Wildlife
No Mow May, Let it Bloom June, Knee High July
No Mow May is all about letting the wild flowers in your lawn bloom, providing a feast of nectar for our hungry pollinators by not mowing your lawn for May (and June and July if you're really keen and want to rewild all summer!).
Pesticide Free Towns
The Pesticide Action Network seeks to promote safe and sustainable alternatives to pesticides. A lot of information is available on the website, however of interest is the “ Pesticide Free Towns Campaign” looking to reduce and/or eliminate pesticide use in public spaces for example.
Wildlife Friendly Gardens
The 2019 State of Nature Report highlighted the decline of many species in recent years so people are being encouraged to garden with wildlife in mind as "there is the potential for substantial biodiversity benefits within the domestic gardens that constitute substantial areas of our cities" and towns. We have put together a summary of things to consider to create a wildlife-friendly garden, although there are many great resources online such as: The Wildlife Trusts' guide to Wildlife Gardening, The RHS article: "Encourage Wildlife to your Garden" and the RSPB's webpage on Gardening for Wildlife.
Here is our list of ways to help support wildlife in your garden:
Having a source of water in the garden can be a great way to attract new visitors to your garden. It doesn't have to be a large pond, even a small, shallow container of water can help. Birds will use the water to drink and bathe. A pond can be a haven for a wide range of plants, birds and animals.
- Reducing external lighting
Artificial night lighting is now known to have a detrimental effect on night-flying insects and bat communities. According to the 2019 State of Nature Report, "Individuals can help to lessen light pollution by switching off exterior lights at night, focusing security lights more precisely, choosing bulbs with lower light intensity and avoiding placing outside lights on white walls, where their effect is magnified. Simply closing curtains at night also makes an important difference! "
Hedges are really important for wildlife; dense, thorny shrubs and hedges offer a safe place for wildlife to shelter and some varieties will provide food for birds and insects too. They are also able to withstand strong winds far better than fence panels. If only a hedge is planted along a boundary without a solid fence it also allows access for species such as hedgehogs in and out of the garden.
- Hedgehog Highways
Hedgehogs are now classified as "vulnerable to extinction" on Great Britain’s new Red List for mammals due to long-term declines so it is important that we do what we can to help. Hedgehogs travel around a mile a night looking for food and a mate so solid garden boundaries pose a problem as they hinder their movement. This can easily be resolved by making holes in or under our garden fences and walls for them to pass through. The hole only needs to be 13cm by 13cm so is small enough to not allow most pets through. More details can be found on the Hedgehog Street website.
- Herbicide and Pesticide Free
If you want to help wildlife then you really need to stop using herbicides (weed killers) and pesticides in the garden. They rarely only affect the targeted species and have a detrimental affect on species further up the food chain. The outdoor use of metaldehyde slug pellets is to be banned across Great Britain from spring 2022, due to the risk they pose to birds and mammals, especially birds, toads and hedgehogs. The herbicide glyphosate, known more commonly by its trade name, Roundup, "is used by land owners, such as councils, to control weeds in our towns and cities. It is used in our parks, playgrounds, schools and on our pavements and verges. It is also readily available in many supermarkets and garden centres as an easy tool for gardeners at home and on allotments." It has been found to be "probably carcinogenic" and to have adverse effects on birds, earthworms, beneficial insects and bees. The Pesticide Action Network UK are calling for the immediate withdrawal of glyphosate from sale to the public and for an immediate end to the use of glyphosate in public spaces in our towns and cities. More details of their campaign can be found on their website.
- Bird Boxes and Bird Feeders
It's great if we can include plants in our gardens which provide natural sources of food for birds such as berries and seeds. By planting a variety of plants and shrubs that flower at different times will help support insects all year round, which in turn supports the insect-eating birds. Don't be too keen to tidy up your garden at the end of the autumn and prune shrubs with berries as these are a great food source during the winter months. You could also grow sunflowers, and if the birds don't get to the seeds in the summer you could store them to put out as food during the winter and early spring when food is not so abundant. Nest boxes are a great way to support local bird populations but make sure you do your research on the type of box and where it should be located as different birds require different design nest boxes. The RSPB website is a great source of information on this topic.
- Wild Areas
It is great if you can leave some areas of your garden to go wild, let nature take over and see what grows! Add a pile of logs and sticks to provide a home for insects and even hedgehogs and toads. The BLUE Campaign suggest that if you are worried how your neighbours will view your rewilding efforts, put out a blue heart sign to start a conversation and show it is an intentional act.
- Plant trees
Trees can bring colour, interest and wildlife to your garden, these websites provide lots of information about how to choose the right type of tree for your garden: The Woodland Trust's guide "British trees to plant in your garden", and the RSPB's "Best trees for birds and wildlife".
Composting at home is the best way to dispose of garden and plant-based food waste as you will make a nutrient-rich compost for use in your garden. Meat, fish, dairy, bones and cooked food waste cannot be added to a normal compost bin or heap. However, they can be composted using a food waste digester.
If you have been thinking about buying locally produced foods to reduce food miles and your environmental impact then you should consider your food waste miles too. Food waste collected in our kerbside collections is processed in Bedford, approximately 80 miles away. So if you are able to process your own food waste then you benefit by keeping the nutrient-rich compost for use in your garden and you are saving the environmental cost of transporting your food waste to the processing site - a win-win situation!
Reduced price compost bins and food digesters can often be bought through the Surrey Environmental Partnership, check their composting webpage for more details and for information about composting at home.
Grow Your Own
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is the best way to eat truly local produce. You can grow a surprising amount in even a small area or a few pots. If you don't have space to grow produce at home you could consider getting an allotment.
Allotments are currently in high demand in the Borough so you may have to wait to get a plot, but it is well worth it. Allotment sites are wonderful places, full of people who are very passionate about their produce! For more details on the sites within the Borough visit the Council's allotment webpage.
The National Allotment Society website has some great resources and advice once you get a plot.
AllotMe is a a great service which allows residents to earn money by renting out their gardens to other local residents to use to grow their own fruit and vegetables. If you are looking for a plot you can register on the website so that you are informed if a plot becomes available near you.
Wilding the borough's verges
Surrey County Council support the BLUE campaign which encourages councils to turn roadside verges and public spaces into native wildflower meadow. In Surrey the responsibility for identifying verges is being passed to residents so the scheme will be implemented by asking residents to:
* Identify suitable grass verges near where they live.
* Gain local resident support to rewild this area.
* Contact Surrey County Council to ensure this verge is suitable for being left uncut.
* Make or purchase a blue heart to plant in the verge.
"Surrey County Council will record the Blue Heart location and notify the district or borough Council or relevant contractor." For our borough this will be Epsom & Ewell Borough Council. "The grass-cutting team who manages this verge will then bypass this area on their route, or if a partial cut is needed for safety or access reasons will cut the sightlines, or may reduce the cut to only a 1m strip along the road or pavement. All verges, including Blue Heart locations, will have one full-width cut each Autumn."
Full details can be found on the Surrey County Council website here.
Meanwhile, we understand that Epsom & Ewell Borough Council are seeking funds to purchase a cut and collect mower. Collecting the clippings is important as they add to the fertility of the soil. Wildflowers prefer to grow in low fertility soil. When soil is rich in nutrients, the flowering plants find it difficult to compete with grasses.
What residents need to do now:
If there's a verge near you which you would like to be left unmown then follow the steps on the Surrey County Council website.
Epsom Repair Cafe are making blue heart signs, see their page for details of how to purchase these. For more local information and support for residents on rewilding and wild flowering, please contact Surrey's Wildflowering Project.