Garden Biodiversity Challenge

This is an extraordinary time. The Corona Virus has shut us down, forced us to retreat home and wait out this dreadful pandemic. My family had a meeting, without me I should add, and I was declared the weak link in the family because in the past I have suffered from asthma. Unless I wish to risk familial harmony, I need to stay put. I am well set up to work from home, and there is plenty work to do, so that is not going to be a problem. However, I do enjoy being outdoors and exploring nature, and I think this is what I might mostly miss.

In order to avoid cabin fever setting in, I plan to document and share with you what biodiversity I can find in the garden over the next few weeks. The timing for this is good, for there is still very few signs of spring; today it is 7 degrees but feels cooler with the easterly breeze. But as each day passes, the garden should be bursting into life and many new finds to make. And I will share my finds on social media, as they say in Ireland, just for the craic!

Let me tell you a bit about our garden. I live in rural Kilkenny, surrounded by prime agricultural land. Our house is back about 200m from the road, down a rough lane surrounded by fields. The ‘garden’ is really just a triangular field of about half an acre, surrounded by poorly maintained hedgerows that cattle sometimes break through. Some rather old sycamore and ash trees grow in the hedgerows. We have a vegetable patch, about 10m by 15m, but over the years it has produced far more weeds than edibles. When we moved in about 20 years ago, we planted corners with native trees and shrubs, crated a ‘wildflower’ strip and dug three holes and lined them with polytunnel plastic to create ponds. One of those never really held water. A second works well, not great to look at, but does support wildlife. The third, the largest, a hole of about 20m by 10m was meant to be my pride and joy. Instead, it has become a magnet for our flock of ducks and geese, who have made shit of it, literally! Some aquatic wildlife persists in spite of the best efforts of our flock. The remainder is tussocky grass which gets cut occasionally. The soil here is enriched, so little else grows except grass and nettles in the open, and cow parsley and hogweed in more shaded areas. Oh, and did I mention the kids penchant for all things mechanical? At times it has doubled up as an assault course, a DIY moto-cross service area, and more recently a pit bike rat-run. In short, our garden is not really a garden at all; rather a field annexed from farmland as a multi-purpose outdoor youth academy, with ducks. There are always ducks. Despite this, biodiversity retains a foothold, and I will see what treasures it holds. And I will only list what has arrived into the garden of its own accord.

Here are three common flowers to start the list; #1 lesser celandine, #2 primrose and #3 daisy.

Species #1 Lesser celandine. One of the first flowers to be seen each year, with the yellow petals opening in sunshine but closing when sun retreats. It belongs to the buttercup family. It is a common plant around the garden.
Species #2 – Primrose is a very distinctive early flowering plant. It has light yellow petals, with a darker yellow ‘eye’, and wrinkled leaves. It grows on an earthen bank in the garden.
Species #3 The daisy manages to grow in the grass, and can easily survive regular mowing. There is hardly any time of the year when at least a lone daisy cannot be found in the garden.