Many animal and plant species are threatened in Switzerland. Environmental scientist Daniel Ballmer from the Floretia Association knows how each and every one of us can make a contribution and make free green spaces in the garden or empty balconies more natural.
annabelle.ch: Daniel Ballmer, why should we promote biodiversity? What use is that to us anyway?
DANIEL BALLMER: Supporting biodiversity means preserving the diversity of habitats, species and genes and their processes. Starting with the plants that produce our oxygen and the animals that need it to be pollinated. Our plant foods also need animal predators to keep pests in check. A high diversity of living organisms secures these processes in the long term, as several species not only fulfil their tasks better, but can also share them. If, for example, only one bee species were responsible for pollinating an apple tree, an aggressive epidemic would ensure that there would no longer be apples, as the tree would not be able to pollinate its flowers itself.
How can biodiversity be promoted in the home garden?
That is actually quite simple! On the one hand with native plants, on the other hand with diverse structures such as heaps of branches and leaves, dry-stone walls, ponds, loosely overgrown earth and sand areas and rarely mown perennial beds. This creates food and habitat for countless insects, birds and other living creatures. If a garden is not geometrically and finely decorated, it is much more valuable for our nature.
And what if you only have a balcony?
Here, too, a lot can be achieved with native wild shrubs and bushes, especially for pollinating insects. Nesting aids also work quite well on balconies – bat boxes and wild bee houses should be placed on sunny balconies, redtail boxes on shady ones and swallow or sailor nesting aids from the third floor upwards. A manure board prevents conflicts with the neighbors and provides outstanding tub plant fertilizer.
Do wild plants do more work than cultivated ornamental plants?
No, on the contrary: If you have a bed full of different wild plants that should get along well with each other, you hardly leave any gaps for weeds and you don’t have to fertilize or water them.
Which plants do you recommend?
That always depends on the region and the light conditions – and of course on the animals you want to promote. For sunny balconies, for example, the wild carrot, the cute bellflower or the seed alfalfa are suitable. For shady spots, it is more likely to be the spring pea, the cowslip or the cuckooflower. If you want to encourage birds, you can bring all kinds of colourful finches to the balcony with thistles, cards and flake flowers.
These many different plant names confuse me as a garden layman. How do I find out which shrubs or ornamental grasses fit best into my garden or on my balcony?
We can give you some help on Floretia.ch. The postcode and details of the location and soil conditions are used to display plants that are particularly suitable for this location. We also refer you to local nurseries, because if the plants come from plants in your region, this has many advantages: they flower exactly when their pollinators are active, and they are well adapted to winter and spring frosts. They also do not introduce new diseases.
And how long does it take for bees and insects to show up at home?
Many come immediately – even in the middle of the city. Until last year I had a roof terrace in downtown Aarau, and even then I counted over two dozen pollinator species on my handful of plants in one summer – from the tiny gold wasp to wild bees to the swallowtail. But of course, the older the garden, the higher the number of species. If you let the diversity grow, you will find new little jewels every year.
The Floretia association is committed to biodiversity and operates an online platform where you can search for specific groups of plants or animals that you would like to promote.
Our photo gallery shows you how insects, worms and bees can be further actively supported.