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Patch of the Planet Podcast - Episode 1 - Rough episode Transcript

What is a nature garden? How does it differ from a wildlife garden? And how can we re-imagine gardens and gardening to help nature recover?
I'm Dina. I'm Neil. And for years we've been helping people to help nature recover through their gardens.
In today's episode we're going to uncover what a nature garden is and why it's something we should all have.
Do you want to discover the potential of your garden to help nature recover and what you can do to make it happen?
Every garden is a patch of the planet and every patch wants to thrive.
Nature might be in crisis but our gardens offer huge potential to make a difference.
Hi, we're Dina and Neil and in the Patch of the Planet podcast we uncover the tips and tricks to nature gardening and speak to brilliant people doing brilliant things so you can create your own thriving patch of the planet.
So hello everyone and welcome. We're going to talk today about what a nature garden is and it kind of makes sense at this point to explain why we use the term patch of the planet to define who we are.
What exactly is a patch of the planet? Neil. So a patch of the planet. Patch of the planet is the name of our enterprise or social enterprise is doing what we've been doing for several years now.
Everyone knows the idea of a patch, be it a patch of land or the patch on the back of your house is your garden.
As we see it the whole earth is made up of tiny patches of land all over the place and we say time and time again, every single patch of the entire planet wants to be a thriving living space.
And it deserves to be a thriving living space as well and if we can develop as many thriving patches of the planet as we possibly can around the country and around the world then we are supporting nature to thrive and we're also helping nature to recover as well.
So our idea with the project of patch of the planet is to help as many patches of the planet to be reimagined and redeveloped in such a way that they're supporting nature.
So we're also helping nature to thrive and for the planet to be in a healthy condition and you might have heard lots of times from all over the place that if you put all the gardens in Britain together they would create more space than is covered by all of the national nature reserves across Britain.
So there are massive, massive area taken up by gardens and there's different ways we can we can work with those gardens. We can cover them in concrete and sit in them on a sunny day.
Or we can we can develop them in a way that works more and harder with the natural world. But if you imagine that we could create gardens that bring us joy but also support nature, support wildlife and support the natural world to recover.
If every single one of us that is doing then you can imagine them adding up one after another after another into this is massive scale patchwork of patches all across the country.
It's got massive potential to support wildlife, especially when you consider that actually a lot of the wildlife in Britain is found in more urban and suburban areas now actually rural areas and agriculture areas especially struggle in the face of modern farming techniques.
So our gardens have got huge potential to support nature to recover and the idea of patch of the planet and the concept of a patch of the planet is that it is a garden which is developed in a way that supports, supports nature to recover and to thrive along as being a space for us.
That's what we call a patch of the planet and that's what we're trying to achieve in this project and in this social enterprise and everything that we do in patch of the planet.
So maybe we should look at where all of this came from in the first place so where they come from for you.
Well like most things on this planet is kind of an evolution.
So my background is biology and am a passionate biologist that's what I trained in.
I also spent some time as a volunteer when I was a teenager in conservation and then and then as you know we met through activism didn't we?
Through the friends of the earth. So there's kind of this burning passion and love of nature and desire to support and protect nature as much as possible and to enjoy it and I love gardens and I love being in beautiful outside spaces.
So then I retrained to be a garden designer and those two aspects the biology and the design part of me kind of became this beautiful mix that works well with patch of the planet and you're and all your skills you're amazing skills too.
How about you?
So I am I mean I've been passionate much like you passionate nature lover for as long as I can remember like no doubt most of the people listening to this as well.
But quite a big chunk of my life has been spent working in charities and community organizations and everything from what used to be called the world development movement but is now called global justice now.
I spent a few years in the campaign for nuclear disarmament as well but this biggest chunk of my time in the third sector as it's called was in friends of the earth in the activism department there in activism section working with the local groups and building up online activism and supporting campaigns to have the greatest sort of people power behind them possible.
I spent a few years as the head of activism there and it's a exciting place to be in many ways.
But at the same time a lot of the successes you have feel really intangible you know you never actually plant a tree you never actually touch the soil.
You're constantly trying to change government policy and laws and council behaviours and things like that so I really wanted to do something more tangible and so I then spent a few years at a fantastic national charity called the Orchard project which creates community orchards in towns and cities and alongside that I've been for ever a passionate gardener and food grower.
And that mix of kind of wanting to be in touch with land and being touched with the environment and the natural world but also bigger picture stuff kind of you know you you take enough interest with that and you end up looking into permaculture which is kind of one method that brings all that together so I  looked into that a lot more and trained up in that.
And then all these sorts of ideas of kind of bringing together recovery of the natural world protection of the natural world and the planet a love of garden to love nature love of practical action all of that kind of inevitably lead you I think into patch the planet doesn't it like there was nowhere else we can end up.
And creating a project which is trying to help nature recover through gardens essentially which is why I suppose that is the problem. Yeah that's right and it's about life isn't it and because we're part of that garden and so it affects us.
Yeah yeah yeah so so what do we do patch the planet I suppose we do this podcast of course and we we started off many years ago now I think I don't know many years ago it is but lots of years ago now up in the north west of England where we used to live.
We started patch of the planet as a as a project to run community projects and we did some community garden design and a community orchard and particularly wanted to focus around training as well we did lots of workshops on soil and permaculture and food growing all of which we still do in a sort of a different way now.
We then moved into doing design and garden design community gardens is one thing I just mentioned but we also moved into doing private gardens as well and all focused around creating spaces that were guided by some of the ideas of permaculture which will talk about in future podcasts and all based around being spaces that work for wildlife and for nature as well as for people.
We did some design of those gardens and after while we started implementing those gardens as well a lot of digging or buying plants and putting them in the ground and shifting things around and carrying wheelbarrow loads of this that any other till we couldn't take it anymore.
And then we moved to Wales, in Pembrokeshire and got ourselves a wonderful five acre smallholding really lucky to do that and that's where we now spend a lot of our time growing our own food orchard we have an area of agro forestry which is another topic we'll talk about in future and and we have some animals we do a lot of food growing and we do a lot training projects here as well.
And throughout that time patch of the planet has developed alongside us and when we moved out to Wales we decided let's take this thing by the horns and take give it its real potential so we've turned it formally into a social enterprise.
I was going to say along this journey as well as reminding me of all the different people we've met along the way who've been incredibly inspiring and been kind of going really deeply into different aspects of what we're doing like the nature garden but different aspects like how incredibly enriched soil is and or people we know of specialists in understanding bats’ needs and so on so it's really interesting to bring in all of this expertise into where we are.
And I'm really grateful for having kind of stepped into these people's lives from the way.
And speaking to many of those people in forthcoming projects so subscribe now obviously as you can get those so yeah so we formalised patch of planet into a social enterprise what's called a community interest company.
And although it's always really been a social enterprise has always been about trying to kind of make things better and kind of try to help ourselves make a living off off of that at the same time.
But the focus on what we're trying to do is all about trying to build patch by patch the recovery of nature through gardens community gardens as well as private gardens and to empower people through training and through courses to be able to achieve that themselves.
And that's the main focus really of what we want to do is help other people to be able to deliver these impacts so so yeah the idea is all of that I suppose and a term that we use to describe what we're trying to create you could call what we try to create a patch of the planet.
But you could also call it a phrase we use which is nature garden and that's not the same as a wildlife garden.
So let's look now then at what is what is a nature garden why is it distinct from a wildlife garden why is it what we should all be doing.
So we should really start with what a wildlife garden is because that's something that many of us are really familiar with that term.
And it's the kind of typical garden you would see promoted by lots of wildlife conservation groups for example.
And so you would imagine certain things in that garden like feeders and different habitats maybe a hedgehog house it would be full of plants that are indigenous to this country and that's a term that we'll come back to in another podcast. W we don't tend to use the word native so much - it's indigenous for us.
And there'll be ponds and all sorts of other features that we're really familiar with in a wildlife garden.
But the question that Neil just posed was how is a nature garden different to the wildlife garden.
And why is it the only way for us.
So let's think about maths.
You like maths don't you love maths. 
I want you to imagine.
Remember the days of Venn diagrams.
This is what we're going to talk about now Venn diagram.
So you have a circle and the circle that we're going to talk about is the nature garden but there's more to that we need to think of three different circles and those three different circles are going to represent the three different needs that we see are met by a nature garden.
So should we look at those different circles in that Venn diagram and see how they overlap and what makes that nature garden really special.
Yeah, let's do that. And I suppose the idea with the nature garden is importantly that it has to deliver on all three of these needs. That's what makes it a nature garden.
So need one will be looking at the needs of wildlife and that's particularly the local wildlife.
The wildlife that is able to come into your garden or is close by and maybe we can enable it to come into your garden somehow.
So the first need the first circle the needs of local wildlife and that is I suppose the kind of garden or the kind of need that's delivered by what you were just describing which is a wildlife garden.
So a garden which we might call a wildlife garden is one which is supporting local wildlife.
So we're talking about one that puts in place habitats and food and conditions that support say amphibians like frogs or newts and that support garden birds and common garden birds like thrushes and blackbirds and robins and so on.
That's supporting insects and obviously we talk about a lot about pollinating insects or another term we don't tend to use so much as pollinator but pollinating insects and we'll come back to all this language stuff in another podcast.
And mammals that come into the garden whether it's foxes or badges or smaller mammals and so we're talking about all the different types of species that might be coming into your garden from the local habitat and the local wider area and wildlife garden and a garden that's supporting the needs of local wildlife then, is putting in place things that support those visitors and the ones that live sort of permanently in the garden if you have a big enough garden to maintain them. So we're talking about things like a wildlife pond we're talking about trees or different sizes that provide habitat that provide food in their leaves and their fruits and in their seeds.
Different ways of producing food as well in the garden is another thing that you would consider for your local meeting the needs of local wildlife and things like pollen and nectar provision all the time.
And habitats and wood piles and shrubbery and all this sort of stuff that creates fantastic conditions for all of those visitors to come in and feel welcome well fed, well supported and unable to make themselves home.
We do have actually we have something on our website called a nectar calendar that we do have for sale and that covers as many months of the year as possible with different varieties of plants that are fantastic for producing nectar for a really long term.
I'm going to give a major big up to Dina there.
She we said let's do a nectar calendar and then I carried on working away on the nature garden course that we've been working on for a while I was working away on bits and pieces of that.
And then she from my memory of it basically she popped back into about half an hour later but it was probably about three weeks later.
With this, like with this mammoth document of over 200 different types of plants all organized by tree and shrub and flowering plants and climbers and bulbs and broken down each one of those plants into when it's providing nectar and pollen across the year.
So it's a mammoth and almighty piece of work it's really impressive but yeah it gives you this amazing selection of plants which you can choose from and any number of them you could you could pick and put into your garden and it will give you the ability to provide nectar and pollen to visiting particularly insects and across the whole year which means at any point in the year when they're out and they're hungry and they need food.
So you're hungry and they need forage you'll be able to provide for it in their garden so big up to Dina for producing that amazing, amazing thing and yes as you say it's it's only like 1.99 or something like that.
Yes less than the price of a cup of tea.
There you go.
So yeah so definitely recommend that.
The needs of local wildlife is this first need every garden in our view in any patch of the planet every single garden should be delivering for local wildlife and that's part of the vision of what patch of the planet is about.
So that means like I say providing for different species coming in and providing for habitats and different types of food that make those different species feel welcome and valued.
Just before actually, I was having a wander around the garden and two plants jumped out at me today and one of them is my new favourite - the teasel. It's a really good plant because it has these heads that are jam packed with lots of different flowers that the pollinating insects really love to it's got lots of nectar and lots of pollen and then that goes to seed and then we have all the gold inches we have loads of them don't we.
Gold inches that come in their droves and they nibble away and eat all the seeds but the really exciting thing that I discovered only this year is that the way that plant grows it forms this cup with its leaves around the stem and the reason for that is so that it catches rain water and it they're so deep that that rain water is deep enough to not evaporate straight away so it's there for several days providing these kind of micro ponds for the wildlife to drink from which is fantastic.
It's great. You've also just written a blog on hawthorn.
Yes, that your favourite tree isn't it?
Yes, it's my favourite tree, it's beautiful, wonderful tree.
Yes, brilliant. Yeah, so yeah that's great for pollinating insects and then of course you get these beautiful haws, they're not berries they're called pomes but they're known as haws and not only are they good for birds that come visiting or small mammals like dormice.
They're fantastic for people as well because we've made haw leather with them and jellies and I found a really great recipe for or ketchup.
So so delivering on the needs of local wildlife I suppose also it means two other things quickly before you're into the second need yes it means alongside or the first thing me delivering on the needs of local wildlife means providing for them and every garden should provide for species with these habitats and food sources but it also means in some cases not doing some things.
So, it means for example if we're really going to support the need of wildlife then we probably shouldn't be having artificial lighting in the garden because it gigantically confuses night insects like moths that really struggle with those and it can have really detrimental effects on some species of bats as well.
So if we really wanting to create a living thriving web of life in our garden and we should be avoiding things like artificial lighting likewise we should be avoiding things like mirrors which are deflecting light from one point to another and can really confuse birds for example we don't understand that it's a mirror they they they see through it they see plant beyond it and they can fly right into it and damage themselves and kill themselves.
So I also think that it's another bird in their territory so they spend so much energy trying to fight it.
Yeah what did we see the other day we saw what bird it was a sparrow trying to get into our kitchen window because it could see its reflection in the glass and the window.
Okay but there was a corvid bird wasn't there on a on a reflection somewhere.
That was on a bend on the road and it was that big curved mirror and it was trying to attack.
That was it - you know those curved mirrors that you get by roads to help you see around the corner more easily.
Yeah and yeah there was a corvid of some form I can't remember what it was but it was yeah it was just pecking at this mirror non-stop because it could see the reflection and it was disturbed and it was trying to attack.
So yeah so there's another reason, it's confusing things and that's the third thing to try and avoid in a garden is well any sort of any sort of synthetic chemicals and things but also things like slug pellets and things like that which even the organic slug pellets as we also said in a recent blog.
It can be really detrimental actually to a wide array of visiting wildlife as well as just the slug themselves so that kind of links to the other point which is really a wildlife garden, a nature garden any garden that's supporting wildlife and delivering on this first circle the needs of local wildlife requires us to some degree to really value all life.
It's really common for us as gardeners and garden lovers to value some of the life and not so much some of it. It's incredibly hard to love a Midge and it can be a certain time to the year quite hard to love a slug but it's really easy to love a robin because they're really pretty, sing nice songs and they potter about and do cute things like standing on the edge of your spade and stuff don't they.
But maybe we don't have to love all of these things but we have to value them all we have to understand I think that all life all wildlife all life on the planet has a place is all connected is all valuable and we need to understand all of it is playing a role and sometimes that role isn't to our benefit but it's a role nonetheless within a big wide system that we need to see ourselves as part of not separate to so.
Meeting the needs of local wildlife requires us also to understand the value and the importance of the role of all living things.
Yeah it’s the idea of connection isn't it, and scientists are only just discovering how complicated all those connections are.
So moving on to that's your first circle in your mass book filled the wild needs of the wildlife now we're going to draw another circle into locking that first circle and that one would be labelled people the needs of the people and when I did my garden design training that really was the focus of the training was how is the garden that I'm going to design going to meet the needs of the client.
So this is what makes patch of the planet different to just garden design because we are going to meet the needs of the people but it's only one circle in that Venn diagram.
Think about that nature reserve we talked about just at beginning when we talked about how they you know gardens actually add up to a bigger area than all the nature reserve. A nature reserve is an area which is reserved for nature.
So if you look at that you can apply that to a garden. The garden is not an area which is reserved for nature even if it's a wildlife garden it's not an area which is reserved for nature it's really fundamentally a people space a garden pretty much by definition is a thing that involves people whether it's because you want to use it yourself or you own it and you interact with it or even if you're actively making the choice to never touch it again and let itself just become some wild rambling space you're still making that decision. You're still responsible for that outcome most of the time though. A garden is a living thriving space that we are interacting with - a people space - and so every garden as well as supporting wildlife needs to support the needs of people whether that's because we want to go out and relax in it or we want to grow food there.
So for our kids to play we were looking for beauty meditation simplicity we maybe want to have garden parties out there or barbecues on admittedly rare sunny days.
The second circle is about delivering on the needs of people which is usually us and it’s really important that a garden does that because if we only get it to support wildlife and it doesn't support our needs as well then to one of two things can happen. First of all you might find it doesn't work very well for you it might become frustrating for you that you're not able to enjoy it yourself.
And it might be in time that you move on leave that garden to somebody else sell your house or give up your rental and somebody else takes it on and they don't want it because it doesn't work for them.
Whereas if you're able to create a garden which is supporting the needs of local wildlife but it's also brilliant for people well, then they might keep it as it is and it can carry on delivering for the needs of people.
Whereas if it isn't delivering for their needs they might just get a little the whole thing cover it in concrete and night lights and all sorts of stuff that we just shouldn't have in it because it delivers more for them so it's really important actually for the sustainability and resilience of a nature garden then it delivers on the needs of people as well just a quick one though.
Oh I’m just gonna jump in if that's all right I was just thinking about it's good it's well it's valuable to integrate people into gardens because once you're in that space you start noticing the nature around you when you start noticing the nature then you start to fall in love with it and until you fall in love with it you don't want to protect it and I think that's part of the journey into the patch of the planet as well.
Well yeah I suppose the ultimate end game of this whole mission is for wildlife and people almost not to feel like two separate circles which is why we want them to interlock so much.
You know we are we are part of the natural world to some degree and we are living things like everything else and it's essential that they interlock with each other and that we interact with living spaces, so you're right bang on.
It's worth remembering as well though that the needs of people extend beyond our own individual needs and there are more people than just us in the world so it might mean for example if you're if you're trying to support the need of people that might mean bearing in mind the needs of your neighbours. It might mean supporting local businesses when you're buying things because then you're supporting local businesses the local economy local people in your area and keeping money local but it also might mean supporting the needs of people that you never met will never meet people from overseas, for example that are maybe producing manufacturing mining materials that you're using ensuring that some of the things that you buy maybe using fair or safe labour practices and things ensuring really that when you're delivering for your own needs in a garden you're ensuring that other people's needs aren't being kind of trodden on by accident through the purchasing decisions you make.
So that's that second circle - meeting the needs of people and by meeting the needs of people and your neighbours, and you connect with your neighbours through your gardens then by default sometimes you begin to meet the needs of the wildlife because those gardens become a bit more connected as well. Yeah that's another future episode, with a guest that we haven't yet secured or confirmed totally so we'll we won't give that one away too much yet and that's a yeah for the next for the future.
So now you've got your compass ready and poised to draw your third circle on that Venn diagram. Now this time it needs to interlock with the previous two circles and this one will be labeled the needs of the planet. Need three.
This is the one I think can be overlooked and that's a shame because the needs of the planet are greater probably than any of the other needs.
It's really possible in theory to produce this amazing beautiful thriving garden which is supporting local wildlife, that's wonderful and inspiring for you to be in, but is made up of all sorts of things which are causing damage elsewhere and so you might for example be buying yourself loads of mass-produced plastic bird houses and feeders that support the birds to eat and to nest at least for one season, you might be using peat-based compost which is arguably quite good for growing some things but causes the destruction of ancient peat habitats in different parts of the world which will probably never recover.
You could be using synthetic chemicals which hold back unwanted plants or hold back unwanted animals and but that cause all sorts of poison and damage to the soil.
You might be using stone in your garden if you make in a patio or something but stone that's been mined in really destructive ways that causes massive amounts of pollution both in terms of carbon emissions or also in terms of pollution into water courses and rivers and you might also be wasting things might be wasting water for example that's coming into the garden but not being captured and supported.
It's really possible that you could create a garden which at the local level supports local wildlife but actually when you step back from it is causing so much damage to wildlife elsewhere that on the grand scheme of things it’s not making anything better - all the harm that's done by some of the decisions negates the good that you're doing so it might be a good thing to look out the window but actually in the grand scheme of things isn't supporting really that patch by patch build up of the recovery of nature. So this third circle is really important I think. I think it's all about looking after the needs of the planet and quite often that actually means not doing some things rather than doing some things so quite a lot of looking after the needs of the planet means avoiding certain things you might avoid synthetic chemicals, avoiding peat, avoiding single use plastics, avoiding excess use of concrete which has cement in it which is a massive carbon emission source and so just having an eye all the time when you're making decisions in what you're doing in your garden what you want materials you're choosing to use or practices you're choosing to use where you're buying things from. And always having an eye on at least lowering the impact on the planet, minimizing any harm or enhancing the health of the planet. If we can do that, that third circle, that means we can have a thriving wildlife space in the first circle one that works really well for us in the second circle but also one which is supporting the health and resilience of the planet as a whole in that third circle and that's what makes it really exciting. And there are practices we can follow as well to meet that need, things like not wasting things, by composting, by capturing that water rather than letting it flow out – we’ll talk about that in the future - well probably lots of different future podcasts actually.
But that's the third circle - the third circle is the needs of the planet as a whole so it's quite simple really the key thing for a nature garden is that it has to meet all three needs that's critical and those interlocking circles where everything is connected shapes everything else that we do from our training to our community projects to our private garden designs all inspired and directed by the patterns of nature which is something that we can learn so much from and it's something that we'll come back to again and again in podcasts and future courses as well. We've got plenty of resources you can have a look out online. One of them actually is a great project that we've just completed and is now live, called 10 steps to a nature garden, but we'll talk about that another time or just in a second tell you how to get to that if you like
So that idea of a nature garden is an idea that shapes and informs everything that we do and there are some fantastic podcasts coming up and don't forget to come back to us to learn about soil living soil, permaculture, apples and fruit trees especially around autumn and winter time, lawns and meadows and we'll be looking maybe more deeply at particular species that are coming into our gardens or maybe aren't coming into our gardens as much as we would hope and looking at how we can encourage them in and various different projects we're always up to something and we'd really love to hear from you as well. Come to us, let us know what inspires you what interests you and what would you like us to talk about.
We've also got a load of really amazing people we want to speak to loads of fantastic organisations and loads of all people over the country doing fantastic things we've got some great guests lined up which we’ll talk about more in the future - brilliant people can speak to all sorts of innovative and exciting things to develop this kind of idea of creating essentially patches of the planet, supporting nature in different ways all over the country
If you want to check out the show notes from this and the load of links from things we've been talking about then head off to our website ⁠⁠. You can also get yourself a free lesson to our 10 steps to aa nature garden, if you'd like to have a look and see you get a taste of it, that's all about how to manage and work with nature to manage some of the sort of less welcome visitors to the garden like those slugs we were talking about earlier so yeah you can get yourself a free lesson over at ⁠⁠. Please do follow and subscribe obviously because that's the best way to stay in touch with all of the episodes and heal with brilliant stuff that's yet to come! Thanks for listening! See you next time!
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