Paving and decking have enjoyed massive popularity in garden makeovers in recent years. They’re a way of bringing the indoors outdoors – which can be a problem for wildlife, and for the wider human environment.
- Less space for wildlife: Every square metre covered by paving and decking is a square metre less of living soil and greenery. This means less habitat for wildlife, and fewer insects for other wildlife to live off.
- Flash flooding! Garden soil is absorbent. When our increasingly common heavy rains hit, the more soft soil there is to hold it for a while, and slow it down, the better. Rain that falls on paving will run straight off, rushing to add to local flooding problems. Decking isn’t much better – although there may be soil underneath, the rain will bounce off the decking, and the soil will be impoverished of organic matter, harder and less absorbent, without plant roots to guide the water downwards.
- Who turned off the air conditioning? According to Natural England’s manifesto for gardens, living green gardens “filter out atmospheric dust, cut down wind speeds and ameliorate the heat island effect” – no wonder so many of us want to live somewhere leafy!
Decking: The Wildlife Gardener website has some positive advice for how to share your decking with wildlife, with dry habitat piles underneath, and leafy plants on top.
- A committed wildlife gardener will keep paving to a minimum, and might consider crazy paving bedded on loose gravel, rather than large slabs set in concrete.
- If your paved areas are non-negotiable, you could apply some lateral thinking: compensate by installing some water butts to collect the rainwater from your roof, and have as many cool, green trees and potted plants around as your other needs allow.
- The water butts will only help if they’re empty when the storm hits! For ways to make use of it see our Water in the garden and Water in the home sections.