GARDENING IT GOES without saying our gardens are places that not only we can enjoy but upon which all manner of plants and creatures may depend for their survival.
In the general scheme of things, they are tiny oases but, together, they are a formidable conservation force that help mitigate against the changing faces of agriculture and what that has meant to the countryside.
That all sounds a bit preachy but there are loads of people practising what I preach, probably a lot better too.
Two such are Catherine and Paul Daish-Miller in their garden at Pan Lane, Niton. Their daughter, Jess, works for the Hampshire and IW Wildlife Trust (HIWWT).
All three are now inspired by what can be achieved in a small space.
Until a few months ago, Catherine did not fully realise just what a wildlife friendly garden they had but, following a one-day course with the trust in Totton, it became clear there were enough features already in the garden to qualify it for an HIWWT Wildlife Garden Award.
"The other thing I learnt that day was a garden does not have to be a wilderness to attract wildlife," said Catherine.
"Birds and bugs will happily use our gardens, whatever their style, if we include certain features — and many of these are already present in many gardens."
The four criteria of the award are food, water, shelter and sustainability. For food, the Daish-Miller garden has shrubs with berries, teasels, nectar-rich plants and bird feeders. Water is there in water butts, a bird bath and a wildlife pond.
Log piles, nest boxes and long grass provide shelter, and compost heaps, peat-free compost and watering with a watering can instead of a hose contribute to sustainability.
"Although we have had many of these features for some time, it was only last year a friend of ours created a small wildlife pond in an unused part of the garden," said Catherine.
"We created a log pile next to the pond as well as a pebbly slope. We also added a simple solar-powered oxygenating pump, which works well. It wasn’t long before pond snails and palmate newts moved in and we also found dragonfly nymphs.
"Long-tailed tits, dunnocks, finches and house sparrows use the bird feeders, and bees feed on the nectar in plants, such as sedums, honeysuckle, heleniums, Michaelmas daisies and lavender."
Catherine is one of the 600 members of the trust on the Island, as well as being on the members’ committee, which organises events during the year.
But you do not have to be a member of the trust to apply for the award — although new members are always welcome.
"It would be great if more Island gardeners could realise how easy it is to create a wildlife-friendly garden using the resources on the trust’s website," says Catherine.
•To find out more about wildlife gardening, go to the HIWWT website at www.hwt.org.uk
for plenty of hints and tips.
You can also find the full list of criteria for the garden award — and, maybe, consider joining the charity dedicated to protecting wildlife and inspiring people across the two counties.