Checklist: How Close To Nature Is Your Garden?

Gardens are good, sure! But purely ornamental gardens can also be quite dead ecologically. Only in a natural garden do people, plants and animals feel equally well and benefit from each other. What about your garden? Is it just beautiful, or is it also good for nature? Do the garden check!

Checklist: How Close To Nature Is Your Garden?

Do you grow native plants?

Checklist: How Close To Nature Is Your Garden?

However, when selecting plants for a natural garden, it is not only usability as a food source that plays a role, but also the continuous supply of food throughout the year. Among native plants you can find spring bloomers, plants with a long bloom in summer and those that bloom only in autumn.


Are your plants in the right place?


There is an ideal spot in the garden for every plant. Sun-loving perennials have little to lose under shady trees, and shade-loving plants take care of themselves in full sun. Then, if you pay attention to the texture of your garden soil, such as whether the soil is loamy or sandy, moist or dry, you can give your garden plants a good start.


The Phlora practical tip: It is better to plant in groups, that is, several plants of one variety in one place. There is less competition among them, and the plants can develop well. In addition, area-like plantings are more noticeable and convey a natural impression.


An important aspect in naturalistic gardens is the low maintenance required for issues such as watering, fertilizing and pruning. Plants that are appropriate for their location only need additional water during hot spells. Otherwise, with suitable soil conditions, they thrive entirely without fertilizer and other adjuvants. Only compost can be buried in the spring when pruning is done at the same time.


Is your lawn still “English”?

Most plants in the “normal” garden are used because of their appearance. But for nature, not all flowers are the same: there are plants that are good for native wildlife because they provide food, but there are also many exotics that native animals cannot use. A colorful mix, on the other hand, of perennials, summer and bulbous flowers, and woody plants with fruits will feed insects and other animals all year round.

If you want to create a garden that is close to nature, you need to take care of the needs of its animal inhabitants.

Therefore, when choosing flowers, it is crucial that the flowers are not “full bloom”. Many large-flowered cultivars offer lush blooms, but what is beautiful to the human eye leaves insects completely cold. They are only interested in the pollen and nectar found in the plant. They find food primarily in native plants, because the plants have adapted to the local fauna.

Does your garden bloom all year round?

However, when selecting plants for a natural garden, it is not only usability as a food source that plays a role, but also the continuous supply of food throughout the year. Among native plants you can find spring bloomers, plants with a long bloom in summer and those that bloom only in autumn. At this flowering calendar you will find a nice list of suitable plants (source: Honigmacher.de).

Are your plants in the right place?


There is an ideal spot in the garden for every plant. Sun-loving perennials have little to lose under shady trees, and shade-loving plants take care of themselves in full sun. Then, if you pay attention to the texture of your garden soil, such as whether the soil is loamy or sandy, moist or dry, you can give your garden plants a good start.

The Phlora practical tip: It is better to plant in groups, that is, several plants of one variety in one place. There is less competition among them, and the plants can develop well. In addition, area-like plantings are more noticeable and convey a natural impression.

An important aspect in naturalistic gardens is the low maintenance required for issues such as watering, fertilizing and pruning. Plants that are appropriate for their location only need additional water during hot spells. Otherwise, with suitable soil conditions, they thrive entirely without fertilizer and other adjuvants. Only compost can be buried in the spring when pruning is done at the same time.

Is your lawn still “English”?

If the plants in your garden have passed the aptitude test for the predicate “close to nature”, now take a look at the lawn. For the native fauna, the green “English” ornamental lawn is a totally worthless area. But even a species-poor lawn can be transformed into a colorful meadow, at least in some places, if you don’t fertilize and rarely mow. Then pretty little plants like yarrow, chamomile, bellflower or meadow cranesbill appear. It is very important that the plants bloom and form seeds.

Do you have good hedges?


The hedge habitat is a gift for wildlife. In the natural garden you will find mainly free-growing hedges, i.e. little pruning and, if possible, no topiary. What you are looking for are “good” hedges. It is best to choose native shrubs with flowers and berries or nuts. They again benefit the animals, provide food, hiding places and nesting opportunities. Only when the shrubs get too big do you resort to shears (before or after the breeding season, of course).

What about your recycling?


Gardening always produces materials that would normally end up in the compost or residual waste. For example, you chop tree prunings, old branches, dispose of trimmings from the hedge and compost lawn clippings and dead plant parts from perennials and summer flowers. In a natural garden, some of this waste can be reused.

Checklist: How Close To Nature Is Your Garden?

Deadwood hedges are created from cut branches: Here, larger branches are either loosely stacked or auxiliary stakes driven vertically into the ground hold the bundles of brushwood in place. Entire fences can be created this way. Larger branches are initially colonized by lichens and mosses, and later by small herbaceous plants. They also form ideal hiding places and retreats for small animals. Excavated old roots also serve as hiding places. Wood-dwelling insects move in here and dig holes for themselves, which in turn are later used as homes by bumblebees and bees.

Checklist: How Close To Nature Is Your Garden?

For many animals, piles of leaves and piled up stones are also suitable quarters. The basic rule is: Create retreats with a little “mess”. Not everything has to be accurately mowed, trimmed and tidy. Even lawn clippings and shredded material can be scattered among the perennials on the beds or under soft fruit. It keeps the soil moist, suppresses unwanted wild weeds, and provides room for microbes to survive.

Tip: Even if you like things neat and tidy, just leave a small section in your garden to its own devices.

Are animals welcome?

Checklist: How Close To Nature Is Your Garden?

In a natural garden, not only the pretty butterflies are welcome, but also the voracious caterpillars. Butterflies first grow as caterpillars and need food plants such as nettles. Later, as moths, they drink nectar from summer flowers, and by winter they need cracked tree bark for winter quarters. Many animals undergo such a transformation during the year. One goal in a naturalistic garden, therefore, is to accommodate all life stages of animals equally.

Is your design “natural”?

Anyone who thinks that a natural garden looks like “cabbage and turnips” is very much mistaken. Naturalness is not synonymous with disorder or neglect. Beautiful garden pictures can be created with a lot of charm:

  • Flat plantings of native wildflowers such as lupines, daisies, poppies or cornflowers bring to mind colorful cottage gardens.
  • A wildflower meadow can take up a piece of the lawn.
  • Paths can be easily cut clear in it with a lawn mower.
  • They can serve as visual axes leading to benches or seating areas, or point to a romantic fireplace.
  • Natural materials made of stones and wood are best suited to a near-natural garden.
  • Fences made of dead wood or living willow demarcate areas from each other and casually create order.
  • Native woody plants and flowers are preferred.
  • With all plants, the first question is always the “utility value” for the environment.
  • Does a plant have edible fruits or seeds and does its flowering attract insects? These plants can then be subjected to the usual design rules in the same way as large-flowered cultivars; there is nothing to be said against a lushly blooming perennial border with wildflowers.

Can you manage without poison?

For many amateur gardeners, chemical treatment with antifungals and insect sprays is part of the normal way of dealing with pest infestations. However, the goal of gardening with nature is to achieve a natural balance between pests and beneficial insects. For example, when a plant is attacked by aphids, an army of little helpers is on hand to eliminate the aphids. Each individual larva of a ladybug, for example, destroys 400 of the pests per day. And birds such as titmice also peck an infested plant free in no time.

Paradoxical as it may sound, harmful insects should be allowed to do their mischief, because the beneficial insects need these pests as a food source. The great art now lies in being able to wait for the helpful beneficial insects to actually do their work.


Bottom line: is your garden okay?


Well, what kind of gardener are you? Is your garden designed more for the eye, or does it already fit the categories of nature-oriented design? Of course, we’d love to persuade you to do more for nature. Your garden will reward you with diversity and lots of life. The practical aspect is that the amount of work in a natural garden is less than in conventional gardening. So you have more time for beautiful things, and the whole thing looks great, too.

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