CONNECT WITH NATURE
Wherever you live, there are so many ways to rediscover nature and our place in it.
Enjoying, appreciating and nurturing the wildlife and landscapes around us can bring so much pleasure, and play a key part in allowing our communities and local and global environments to flourish. Just spending time in green spaces can have a transformative effect on our mental health and wellbeing, and getting involved in community nature projects allows us to ‘give back’ and feel a sense of connection with and pride in our local places and communities.
We can create positive feedback loops that benefit us, our health, our communities and the environment: the more people engage in nature-based activities, the more likely we are to adopt caring and sustainable behaviours.
GROWING AND GARDENING
Growing plants and food, and tending to a patch of earth, however small, is one of the simplest ways to appreciate and benefit from nature. Even if you live in a built up area and have no garden, there will be ways you can get growing, such as by volunteering for a local park’s ‘Friends of…’ group (usually promoted on park noticeboards, or search online), getting involved with a community garden, registering for an allotment, or growing in pots. If there’s a lack of growing projects in your area, consider setting something up – see our advice for communities.
Whether you’re tending to your own garden, or involved in a community project, use our tips for making your growing habits sustainable and beneficial for people, place and wildlife:
1. GROW ORGANIC
Steer clear of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers, or anything that harms wildlife and put toxins in the soil. You’ll be supporting the intricate eco-systems we and other species depend on, and if you grow food it will be more nutritious. Find advice at Garden Organic.
2. GET COMPOSTING
You don’t need much to start composting: even a heap in a shady corner will do, and it enables you to convert kitchen waste into growing medium, and nourish the soil naturally. Find info and tutorials online: try this from RHS or Eden Project.
3. CHOOSE POLLINATOR - AND BIRD-FRIENDLY PLANTS
Some plants, trees and shrubs are especially beneficial for insects and birds (such as wildflowers, herbs and native trees/shrubs), while others can be barren (some double-flowered bedding plants). Choose a range of flowering and fruiting plants, shrubs and trees that provide nectar, food and habitats throughout the year. See Bug Life and Friends of the Earth’s tips.
4. MAKE SPACE FOR INSECTS, BIRDS AND ANIMALS
Creating and leaving habitats supports biodiversity and provides homes for threatened species. This could be mowing your lawn less, leaving piles of leaves for hedgehogs, planting a hedge of native shrubs, digging a pond, or creating a ‘bug hotel’. Try the RSPB’s Give Nature a Home activities and app.
5. STRIVE FOR LOW-WASTE, PLASTIC-FREE, PEAT-FREE, CAR-FREE GARDENING
Many modern gardening practices create waste, pollution and ecological damage, so we end up damaging the wider environment to create our own little patch of heaven. We can stop this by avoiding single-use plastics, composts containing peat, chemicals, and car trips to the garden centre. See these tips.
6. GROW FROM SEED
Growing from seed or cuttings can be a magical experience, not to mention cheaper and less wasteful than buying plants in pots. By saving your own seed, and composting, and you can create your own self-sustaining gardening system. Try Real Seeds to get started and for tips on saving seed.
7. GROW FOOD YOU LOVE
Big fan of blueberries? A blueberry bush can do well in a big pot in a cold climate, and provide decent supply through summer that will mean not buying expensive plastic tubs. Or perhaps you’re partial to chips (who isn’t?!) Freshly dug up, organic potatoes, chopped and cooked fresh will beat anything you can buy in shops. While a few herbs in a pot can transform your cooking. Growing your own produce can help you connect with the earth, be healthier, cut waste, and leave you brimming with satisfaction.
8. GROW TOGETHER, SHARE AND LEARN
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, growing and gardening together, and sharing and learning outdoor skills, is deeply fulfilling and beneficial in more ways than we can count. This might mean getting help from family or friends in the garden, getting involved in a community garden, or getting your school/college/sports club/social group to put time and space aside for growing and nature. See Incredible Edible for food growing projects, or TCV for other outdoor volunteering.
LEARNING, NAMING AND SHARING
A great way to connect with nature is to learn about it, such as by learning to identify plant, tree and bird species, or natural navigation, foraging and other traditional outdoor skills. Developing skills like these, talking and sharing with others, and creatively engaging with nature, can bring great pleasure and be useful. Try the RSPB’s bird identification tool, the Woodland Trust’s tree ID app, or the Lost Words explorer’s pack, to help children and adults engage with the lost language of nature. And look out for nature walks and talks in your locality.
TREE AND SHRUB PLANTING AND REGENERATION
People and wildlife benefit greatly from trees and shrubs: they act as a ‘green lung’, soaking up pollution, provide important habitats, and prevent soil erosion and flooding. Planting trees and shrubs in gardens and through local schemes, or better, allowing them to regenerate naturally, helps our communities and is crucial for turning the tide on the climate crisis. See this advice on tree planting, events and activities, and info on natural tree regeneration.
LETTING WILDLIFE FLOURISH
The number of plants, insects, birds and animals around us has plummeted over the decades, with many species endangered. Encouraging and maximising biodiversity is crucial to our shared future: capturing carbon, nourishing our soils and waterways, protecting food supplies, and supporting people’s wellbeing, as well as preventing the extinction of species that all form part of the web of life. As well as supporting wildlife in our gardens, could your community become part of the ‘rewilding’ movement, letting nature regenerate and flourish?
Explore below at some of our favourite snaps displaying how we can connect with nature