Connecting with nature on a regular basis makes us healthier, happier and smarter but finding the time to connect with nature each day can be a challenge. One way of making it easier for ourselves is by encouraging nature into our gardens. With a little creativity and a few native plants even the tiniest of courtyards can be transformed into an oasis of biodiversity.
Restoring the natural habitats in your garden also helps our native wildlife. As cities and urbanisation continue to grow, natural environments are diminishing and more native animals are being displaced. In cities around the world natural habitats are so fragmented that wildlife friendly gardens and urban green spaces are now playing an increasingly important role in the conservation of biodiversity.
Now that spring is here, it’s the perfect time to create your own wildlife haven. Here are some tips to help get you started:
Plant local native species
Most native plants are drought tolerant once they’re established and will provide you with a beautiful garden with low water requirements. Local plant species which are adapted to the conditions in your area will be easy to grow and the wildlife in your area will be adapted to using these plants for food and shelter. If you plant a variety of species that flower at different times of the year you’ll be providing a year round food source for the animals in your area.
While hybrid species may have larger and brighter flowers, they tend to attract more dominant and aggressive birds, such as Noisy Miners, which will scare away less common species, such as Honeyeaters. The showier flowers of hybrid species will also distract birds from pollinating the local native plants – potentially reducing the population of these species. Non-hybrid native plants with smaller flowers and denser foliage will provide small birds, such as wrens with better refuge from predators and other more aggressive bird species.
Attract biodiversity with a ‘diverse’ backyard
Creating diversity in the structure of your garden will encourage more biodiversity in your backyard. You can achieve this by planting a mixture of trees, shrubs, understory, grasses and groundcovers, as well as adding leaf litter and logs. By mixing up the different plant forms and clumping similar species together you can create a mosaic of different habitats.
Taller trees such as eucalypts provide a great vantage point for predatory birds such as kookaburras and tawny frogmouths while shrubs, understory and grasses offer food and shelter for small birds such as finches and wrens. Frogs and lizards love to shelter under ground cover plants and logs. The logs, together with mulch and leaf litter will also attract insects and, hence a source of food for insectivorous birds and lizards.
Last, but definitely not least, avoid using chemicals in your garden. When herbicides and insecticides enter the food web they can bio-magnify, or accumulate at increasing concentrations in successive trophic levels leaving predatory species with high levels of toxins in their tissues. Pesticides can also flow into natural waterways, harming aquatic wildlife such as frogs. Insecticides are not discrete will also harm or kill beneficial insects, such as lady birds and bees, as well as the targeted pest species.
Encouraging predatory insects such as praying mantis and dragonflies, and insectivorous birds and lizards will also help to keep garden pests away. In addtion, mulch is a great way to control weeds and conserve water.
By applying these simple steps and getting creative in your garden you’ll soon start to see your own natural ecosystem evolve – sit back and witness the succession of plants, insects, birds, lizards, frogs and other animals in your own backyard.