Hi this is Peter from the Wild Bunch with our latest column.
We might well wonder where the ‘birdies’ is – there are not so many of them chattering away, building nests and competing for food and territory. There are many reasons for this, but at the core is a breakdown in the food chain. As they head into egg laying and chick feeding, birds need levels of energy found mainly in insects, which have concentrated the energy of plants, or consumed the smaller microbes which our soils should be teaming with. And there, at the ‘bottom’ of the food chain, lies the problem.
A teaspoon of ‘living soil’ will contain more micro-organisms as all the people on the planet…. and miles of fungal mycelia. A teaspoon of best supermarket compost will contain virtually nothing living at all. It does have chemical nutrients plants need, and it will have the carbon that helps create good structure, but not the bottom layer of the food chain that is so crucial in providing for all the life above.
Tragically most soil in our gardens is equally devoid of life. Just a few generations of using chemicals has decimated the life I describe above. Herbicides used to kill weeds, take out the fungi as well, and pesticides are equally devastating in their broad slaughter of life.
One of the best ways to repair this damage is to maintain a healthy compost heap. This will not only ensure nutrients are looped back into your garden, but create the nursery for fungal and microbial life. There are many websites and books on how to compost – the main aim is to build a damp airy home for life. Encouraging life back in to your garden needs to start with the creatures you can’t even see!
Join the Wild Bunch to find out what you can do to support our wild neighbours, more information can be found on our Wild Bunch Page.