Chloe Wilson- Mum, student and gardening guru!
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
Today we have the fabulous Chloe Wilson talking about gardening for wildlife conservation and food sustainability! She is an inspiration for juggling an MSc in wildlife conservation, full-timework, gardening and a young family!
Short bio about yourself and what you do:
My journey is quite an unorthodox one, and I won’t lie it was incredibly challenging. I worked throughout my degree as well and had to commute quite a distance to university. Despite this, it made me really value my time in lectures, and if anything made me work harder. My advice to any other studying parents is to not feel guilty for not having the same available time as other students! During the children's half terms and summer holidays I would not pressure myself to get work done and made sure I was able to spend time with the boys. This did mean I would have some late nights on the week days, but having family time is as important as the degree (something I am still learning and struggling with as a masters student!). How did you begin your gardening adventure?
I’ve always grown veg - partly because its free food, and partly because its an easy hobby to do from home and get the children involved in. As my degree went on and I learnt more about the importance of pollinators, current issues with climate change and the importance knowing where you food comes from, I became more passionate about gardening. I only recently started sharing my gardening tips and tricks with others, as I really believe its kept me sane at times and anyone can grow a few things from pots and windowsills.
How do you garden for nature and what does wildlife conscious gardening do for the environment?
I had to clear lots of overgrown space to be able to grow veg, which unfortunately meant I was destroying valuable habitat for insects and wildlife. On my journey to become sustainable I am always trying to be wildlife conscious in every aspect of gardening. I have been trying to counteract the loss habitat from clearing beds and instead have more wildlife in my garden than there was before.
I have been making my own compost and planting wildlife friendly native plants. By creating compost (using old bedding from the chicken coop, food scraps and grass from mowing) I am encouraging soil biodiversity in my garden and hoping to improve the soil health. This in turn helps my vegetable patch and means I avoid having to buy bags of compost from B&Q each year – which is great financially and for my carbon footprint! I avoid mowing through winter to provide habitats for overwintering insects which is vital for wildlife. I also ‘set aside’ areas of veg patch each year where I grow veg which I leave for insects or wildlife usually seen as pests.
Please highlight a conservation issue you are particularly involved in:
I am passionate about soil science and biodiversity, particularly ants! Other than this though my main
conservation passions are encouraging our native wildlife, and science communication and education. Having children makes me very aware of the importance of education, and I have been involved in many science communication events. I worked at the British Science Festival, an event which brings the community together and allows scientists a space to discuss their research with the public. I have also volunteered before at the David Attenborough building in Cambridge, and was part of a conservation art event. This meant I got to speak with the public about current issues using art as a medium to engage people. I am hoping to be able to advise others on conscious gardening and wildlife issues through my Instagram page, whilst also showing off humungous veg.
What can people do you help with this issue?
I think people can get involved in science communication in many ways. Through organizing litter picks and discussing the issues with plastic pollution, to volunteering in local schools to help with science teaching, just get out there and get talking! To help our native species the best thing you can do to get involved is look to your own gardens. What plants do you currently have? Are you being too ‘pristine’ in the way you garden? Leave any area each time you mow, don’t cut that bush back so far, or even on a balcony or patio have a pot of lavender or herbs which help encourage our struggling wildlife.
What is your greatest achievement as a naturalist?
"My greatest achievement personally is achieving a first class degree whilst juggling so many things. I cried when I found out! Being able to graduate with my children watching was my proudest moment as a naturalist."
What is your favourite species and why?
My favourite animals are definitely ants! For my undergraduate dissertation I looked into ant evolution and use any excuse to talk about them. I cant choose a particular species as so many are so fascinating. If you don’t know much about ants though, start with looking up honey pot ants and I promise you will be as in awe as I am.
What are your goals going forward?
My goals moving forward are to finish my masters course and learn some new skills doing it. I also would love to be able to inspire just one person to think consciously about their garden space, even if that means just not getting too down when the caterpillars each all their cabbages.
Advice for people wanting to get into gardening for wildlife and growing their own food:
Wildlife conscious gardening is so vital to help our native species, particularly in urban areas where greenspace is sparse. Planting native plants, having areas where you do not mow and building bug houses are all simple steps others can do to encourage biodiversity. I try and involve my children as much as I can which is a great way to make it a family event, and we are often out collecting sticks or pinecones to bring back home. I’m yet to get them to help with the weeding though…
If you would like to follow Chloe's journey, her Instagram page is dedicated to gardening and wildlife! Follow her @cewgardens