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I look over the fence at the neighbour’s garden and sigh at how nice it looks. Not pristine, just nice. Mine, on the other hand, is just plain messy. Or so I thought. Now, it seems, an untidy garden is exactly what we should be striving for. The RSPB is calling for gardeners to not be quite so neat and tidy and to let parts of their garden grow a bit wild. You don’t have to give your whole garden over to the wilderness, just a little patch of longer grass, a few logs, weeds and wildflowers and it’ll be the perfect habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife. My garden, then, with its ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ long, wavy grass, clover, dandelions and piles of chopped down eucalyptus and holly prunings is actually doing a good thing! Maybe I’ll leave that patch of weeds for just a bit longer.
The slug you DO want in your garden
Slugs are one of gardeners’ worst enemies and we’re always on the lookout for the most effective deterrent. However, there is one slug that you do want to encourage…and try not to kill. The leopard slug (Limax maximus) eats fungi, rotting plants and other slugs, but not healthy plants. They live in dark, damp places – rotten logs, fallen trees, sometimes in sheds and damp cellars – and need to keep their bodies damp to breathe. They can grow up to 16cm long and are brown or grey with brown/black spots/blotches. They have marbled spots at the front of their bodies and three dark stripes either side at the back.
The Natural History Museum runs the OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) network, which aims to inspire people to study and protect their local environment. There are lots of surveys you can do in your own back garden and OPAL is very interested to hear from you if you’ve found leopard slugs in your garden.
Fruit and veg healthier at lunchtime
New research shows that keeping some fruit and vegetables in their natural ‘light-dark’ cycle dramatically increases the amount of anti-cancer chemicals that they produce, even after harvesting. Plants have their own circadian cycles and use them to release natural pesticides called glucosinolates. These are most prevalent in the daytime, when the pests are active and reduce at night. Janet Braam of Rice University, Houston, who led the study said “Perhaps we should be storing our vegetables and fruits under light-dark cycles and timing when to cook and eat them to enhance their health value.”