Improving tiny urban greenspaces causes huge boosts in insect life

Originally published at: Improving tiny urban greenspaces causes huge boosts in insect life | Boing Boing


this is one awfully easy and probably not-that-expensive way to help out, at scale, around the world.

Which means that Fox News will soon be railing against the practise (especially when it’s done in “undeserving” neighbourhoods).


We’re filling in a lot of our garden with plants that grow well in green areas around here, I’m not sure if they’re native, or just well adapted to the climate here, we’re definitely teeming with insects, especially pollinators… could do without the damn slugs and snails though.


I can’t remember where you are, but if in the US, the Xerces Society has awesome resources. I use the stuff for pollinator protection a lot. Plant lists, cool landscape scoring sheets so you can figure out what to improve, it’s great stuff.

On the study: it’s one of those, “well, obviously,” results, but I’m glad they took the time to prove it. It would be a cool urban development angle to add in a certain square footage of indigenous planting in “waste spaces” based on overall size of the development. Kind of like how in many cities a certain percentage of the value of the project has to go towards public art.


Not in the US any more, we’re all about encouraging pollinators though, I’ve counted at least a dozen hoverfly varities, and loads of different bumblebees and honeybees, and so forth, to quote park life “it gives me a sense of enormous well-being”


Nice. The xerces scoresheets were fun for us bc we’d pretty much done everything we could re: plantings, but the sheet gave us good ideas for providing habitat (like, for us, piles of stones or twigs, that kind of thing), and then re-scoring and seeing you’ve improved.


We had a funny season for pollinators. At first, it seemed like there would be a serious lack of them, our fruit tree lost almost all the plums because of a lack of pollination. But one day it was like someone flipped a switch and there were bees everywhere. They were everywhere in the garden and our lavender plants were absolutely teaming with them.

Of course, it’s also been a banner year for grasshoppers, both in terms of size and quantity. Not really loving that one, but hey! Nature’s gonna nature.

We’re actually lucky that the slugs stay out of our garden. We’ve got some kind of leopard slug around here and they’re huge. I’d guess pretty darn close to 6 inches when they’re stretched out and moving.


We’re currently living through an insect/bird apocalypse, and this one easy thing is a major part of the solution. Adding plants favored by caterpillars in particular (i.e. native trees) provides food for birds to give to their young, solving two problems in one.


a small, 200-square-meter greenspace in downtown Melbourne — a place that is “adjacent to a major road, surrounded by large buildings, and embedded in a dense urban matrix.”

My yard isn’t much larger than this and also similarly situated, and I’ve noticed similar results after changing things up for a few years. I’ve been transitioning to an eco-lawn, planting native wildflowers and some trees… it’s previously over-mowed short-grass state was utterly desolate by comparison. I’ve gained tons of grasshoppers, butterflies, native bees, the occasional mantis… and more birds and garden snakes as a result.

I was really surprised by how quickly things changed, I thought for sure that the surrounding city was going to be a hindrance. Turns out lawns really screw things up.


UK councils have - with varying success - been encouraged to leave roadside grass verges alone for just this reason, for a while now. Some still cite ‘visibility and safety’ as an excuse not to do the decent thing, and some pillocks still complain to councils about ‘untidy’ verges.

PS @Clive_T

In 2016 they honed in on a small

It’s homed in on…

Screen Shot 2021-09-23 at 17.59.38


I can do this. I’m really good at growing weeds.


Is it possible that someone nearby with an orchard or farm hired one of the moveable bee keeping services to provide bees to pollinate their crops, and you were lucky enough to get the overflow?

eta: a lot of the plants that grow here happily are imports, many undesirable. You have to be careful about what you allow to grow. African Tulip Trees are pernicious and will sprout from a fragment of root, and haole koa is almost as bad. Neither are good contributors to the local ecosystem.


A decent amount of the plants that grow in the wild here are garden escapees AFAICT, things like Valerian, Dusty Miller, and Budlea… they seem to offer quite a lot to insects though.


My entire town is a nearby orchard :wink:

I think what happened was they were just late in getting out there this year. They seemed to show up when the lavender fully blossomed and the heat kicked in. The end result of all the bees (etc.) was a very fruitful garden this year, including an obscene number of cucumbers.


A lot of escapees flourish on railway embankments where there is very little to disturb their growth, especially buddleia.


Sometimes I wonder if people use “honed” like that because they associate it with the idea of sharpening one’s focus. And then I pause to admire the poetry in their word usage :smiley:

The year after college I shared a run-down rental house with a bunch of roommates. The yard was completely uncared for. There was so much lambsquarters (aka goosefoot/pigweed) growing in the yard that it served as my main green vegetable all summer!

(There was also hemp growing in the yard, as we were very close to the railroad tracks, where it grew profusely. One of the roommates told me that long ago it was planted on railroad embankments to keep cows off the tracks—but I’m not sure that’s true. Recently I read that it grew along the tracks because some seed would escape from the train cars during transport, back when hemp was a major crop/industry. My roommates and I didn’t do anything with the hemp.)


Around Croydon in South London (and many other places I imagine), around some of the closed railway stations, hops grew spontaneously, seed dropped from the clothing of workers who took trains to Kent to pick hops for summer vacation…


With train toilets that are straight drops apparently tomatoes grow from self-fertilising deposits dropped on the tracks.


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