We’ve become accustomed to seeing ourselves and our activities as somehow falling outside of the natural environment instead of being part of them. Is it possible for your suburban garden to become a haven for nature?
A study in the UK points out that the amount of space devoted to suburban gardens exceeds the amount of space devoted to nature reserves and presents the viewpoint that gardens, taken as a combined whole, actually represent the largest nature reserve in the United Kingdom.
So what about our Australian gardens? Can we really create an oasis for nature and still have a beautiful garden? We certainly can!
Choose native plants
Native plants are under threat from invasive aliens as well as urban expansion and agriculture. There have been documented cases in which plants have been saved from extinction through the efforts of gardeners. You don’t have to be purist either, nothing stops you from enjoying your favourite garden flowers, but choosing worthy native plants wherever possible not only helps to preserve our flora, but also attracts the birds that rely on native vegetation.
Plant a bird-friendly garden
Birds use plants as a food source as well as for shelter and protection. Trees and shrubs offer them fruits, nectar and nesting sites as well as nesting material. Putting out bird feeders in spots that are safe from pets won’t just make the birds happy. You’ll love watching them and getting to know their habits too. Limit feeding to a few treats – you don’t want them to become dependent on you.
Limit pesticide use
Pesticides affect your garden’s food-chain. When we spray, we kill off beneficial insects along with the harmful ones. As a result, we’re more susceptible to the next pest invasion because we’ve wiped out the insect predators that protect our plants. In addition, birds eat insects, eat fruits and drink nectar from our plants. Long-lasting pesticides can also affect them. If you feel that you really need to spray, choose organic insecticides and target only the most needy plants.
Have you ever wondered why tree care specialists and horticulturists are so dotty about mulch? Apart from reducing your garden’s water needs and helping to keep weeds down, a healthy layer of mulch helps to maintain the balance of nature in the soil. Soil contains beneficial fungi, bacteria and useful soil organisms like earthworms. By mulching, we make it easier for the soil to support life. Of course, that’s good for plants and birds too!
Plant a hedge
Not only will your hedge serve as a haven for wildlife, it also looks so much nicer than a blank wall or an ugly wire fence. If you’ve already got a wall or a fence around your property, consider planting a variety of shrubs or climbers to create a similar effect. If a formal hedge sounds like hard work, select a variety of naturally bushy shrubs and plant a natural-looking hedgerow to screen your home from passers-by.
Bring water into your garden
Whether it’s a pond or a simple bird bath, bringing water into your garden provides refreshment for frogs and birds. Ponds are best, of course. If you’re worried about mosquitoes, you can choose fish that feed on mosquito larvae. However, a healthy frog population usually does quite a good job of controlling mosquitoes.