Regular readers of this column will know that I like leaflets – and I don’t mean small leaves on plants.
I mean paper leaflets, the things put on display by retailers of every description to describe the excellence of the goods and services they provide. And I am a peruser of leaflets, not a collector for, in 99% of cases, I read the leaflet and then discard it, hoping I will remember anything which is of interest to me.
It will come as no surprise, then, to learn that I picked up several leaflets in the course of the weekend which has just ended. One came from a branch of Tesco and was headed ‘Community Food Connection’. It turned out to be a leaflet meant for Tesco staff, not for the customers, although it had been put on display for shoppers to pick up: but two definitions may be of interest to any shopper. Under the heading Items marked with a ‘Best Before’ (or ‘Display Until’) date. These dates are a mark of quality not safety. And under the heading Items marked with a ‘Use By’ date. The Use By date is a mark of food safety. The leaflet then explains … for the benefit of staff … what this means in terms of donating foot to charities: but it struck me that these definitions are also applicable at home; ‘use by’ means exactly what it says: but ‘best before’ admits of common sense in deciding whether the item will still be perfectly edible. I’m not too sure that everyone understands this difference.
And so to gardening. Another of the leaflets I picked up came from the most local of the several garden centres in my neighbourhood and was headed ‘Making Gardens Beneficial for Wildlife’. This is a joint production of the Royal Horticultural Society … the RHS … and the Horticultural Trades Association … the HTA … and is split into several sections with the sub-headings ‘Gardening for Wildlife’, ‘Plants for Wildlife’, ‘Organic Gardening’ and ‘Hedges’. The opening paragraph of ‘Gardening for Wildlife’ reads: “Encouraging butterflies, birds and other wildlife into the garden is a joy in its own right and goes a long way to protect the survival of creatures within our environment. Many small steps can be taken to encourage wildlife into your patch. Think about the needs of birds and insects and choose plants for nectar and seed heads. Improve the environment by adding a pond, hedge or nest box. And change the way you garden – put down your chemical spray gun, let the lawn grow and don’t be too quick to tidy up – that pile of leaves and old wood is home to many insects!”
I am sympathetic to many of these suggestions, although I do balk at putting some of them into practice in my own garden. Yes, I do include plants which attract bees and provide seed for birds later in the year; yes, I have trees and shrubs … not an actual hedge, admittedly … to offer nesting opportunities, shelter and protection to birds; and yes, I am using more organic products and fewer chemical sprays in my garden. But I find that it’s wildlife which I don’t want to encourage that likes to make its home in garden detritus in my neck of the woods; things like slugs and snails find plant debris a highly-desirable habitat, while rabbits find my grass utterly irresistible when it is allowed to grow long – sampling precious plants on their way to and from their feeding ground, of course. However, the leaflet is jam-packed full of excellent suggestions for making gardens beneficial for wildlife and I commend it to every gardener. If your preferred garden centre doesn’t have it on display, it can easily be downloaded; type ‘RHS/HTA Easy Guides’ into your browser and follow any of the links which will be offered. Oh, and don’t be influenced by my dislike of slugs and snails; some birds find that they make a very tasty meal, although they don’t appeal to me.