Patching the Planet

DINA and NEIL KINGSNORTH have written this article. We hope they will be regular contributors in 2023…

Image by Kitty Parsons

Imagine if we were to add all the gardens, community green spaces and allotments in the UK together.

They would cover an area bigger than all of the country’s nature reserves combined – at least 10 million acres.

We see potential in that. To us, every garden is a little patch of the planet. In our eyes, every patch of the planet wants to thrive and be abundant and productive, just as nature itself is.

With smart design, our gardens and green spaces can work just as we want them to, while inviting in and enriching nature.

Patch of the Planet (Llecyn o’r Blaned yn Cymraeg) is a working permaculture smallholding we steward on foothills of the ancient Preseli Hills. We run it to explore, deliver and teach ways to live at the small scale, in ways that work in harmony and collaboration with the natural world.

Before running this patch, we ran a nature-based garden design business that went by the same name. And that’s a service we still offer now: gardens designed for hedgehogs, bats, toads, birds, worms, butterflies, bees – and people.

At the core of our design approach is something called permaculture design, which is an intelligent design system informed by the natural patterns and systems of nature.

It’s a system that’s gathering pace all over the world, in gardens, farms and communities, and its basic principle is that by working with nature rather than against it, everyone’s a winner.

Here are four tips to think about when approaching your garden with an eye on nature:

Create food sources and habitats: Feeding the birds is a good start, but we can go a whole lot further when we think of our space as a biodiverse habitat. Even a few carefully selected plants can make a big impact on that. Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus), for example, feeds bees with its nectar, and birds such as Bullfinches and Waxwings with its berries, and its leaves are popular with hedgehogs for nesting material. Almost every garden can take a pond of some sort and the impacts of that for biodiversity are wonderful. Ponds support aquatic life, amphibians, moths, bats and birds just for a start.

Care for the soil: It all comes down to the soil. Far from being a lifeless mix of minerals, soil is an ecosystem bursting with an astonishing array of life. Bacteria, fungi, nematodes, springtails, worms and a million others interact with each other and plants to build fertility and soil structure. Without that living soil, not much else of the rest of the garden would be there. Limiting the digging, avoiding synthetic chemicals and feeding the soil life with composts or natural farming ferments is a great way to nurture that most fundamental of ecosystems.

Minimise your impact: When we mess about with our gardens, we often do so by bringing things in. Patios, structures, furniture. The natural world will always be happier if we can source materials we use locally, focus on materials that are natural, will biodegrade in time and that demand a lot of climate-changing carbon emissions for their production. Creating a nature-rich garden means thinking about the nature elsewhere too.

Design for all the visitors: There is no point planting that Guelder rose for the hedgehogs if they can’t get into the garden. There is no point trying to attract bats if a garden light deters them every dawn and dusk. Providing easy access, resting points and some spaces for drinking are all great ways to provide a warm welcome.

It’s never been more important to start to listen to and work with nature. Just think what those 10 million acres could achieve…

So it’s something of a mission for us, whether that’s on our own patch of the planet, in our training courses to build others’ confidence in nature-based design, or in designing spaces. Stay in touch with what we’re up to. Join us on Facebook or Instagram or come along to one of our upcoming face-to-face courses this year, including “Gardening and Growing in Harmony with Nature”, “An introduction to Permaculture”, and a full “Permaculture Design Course”.

Dina and Neil Kingsnorth



Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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