Almost all gardens are filled with visitors from the natural world. Still, with the environment around us evolving and wildlife habitats dwindling, we gardeners have an important role to play in safeguarding the future of our precious nature. We can do that by constructing gardens that suit our personal requirements and double up as eco-friendly sanctuaries.
Now we know what you’re thinking, and no, making our gardens wildlife-friendly doesn’t mean that we have to let them turn into wildly rugged, unkempt jungles where animals swing from tree to tree… but every space, no matter its size, can give a home to wildlife. The best part is that it isn't hard to build one! With a few fundamental rearrangements and by adjusting the way you maintain your garden, it’s easy to make your outdoor space comforting and friendly for a wide variety of wild creatures.
However, with that responsibility comes the need to find a balance between attracting backyard-friendly wildlife and keeping pests and predators away to preserve what you’ve worked hard to build.
Keep reading for more on how to turn your garden into a wildlife haven.
The benefits of attracting wildlife to your garden
With rates of urbanisation rapidly increasing throughout Australia, many species are now experiencing a steady decline in numbers. By including things like flowering shrubs, fruiting trees, water sources, insect hotels, and other nesting spots, food and shelter will be readily available (we’ll talk more about those further down!)
Helpful garden insects such as ladybugs and ground beetles also provide a long-term sustainable pest control solution by preying on other pesky insects that damage your garden and its plants. This means you’ll no longer have to rely on chemical pesticides to eradicate the problem.
Aside from the unique aesthetic, wildlife gardens can also make things are little more friendly on your time and the back pocket! Gardens that attract wildlife classically use native Australian plant species, which have grown accustomed to our climate patterns over time. By adjusting your garden to host native species, you’ll find that it requires less watering, saving this precious resource and removing the need to buy new plants to replace sick or dying ones.
A carefully planned wildlife garden also means less maintenance. Native planting can cut down watering and weeding time as they’ll be well suited to your particular region, and seeing as the rugged look encourages robust flora, you’ll hardly have to worry about pruning either!
What to include in your wildlife garden:
Flowers and plants for pollinators
Arguably the most crucial facet of your wildlife garden; plants and flowers are both the primary food source and largest provider of shelter for our wildlife. When thinking of species to include, spare a thought for our pollinators and opt for an array that can provide pollen or nectar for our bees, butterflies, wasps and other important contributors across the year.
We recommend choosing open flowers that allow for easier access when it comes to fertilisation and look for varieties that have been nurtured without the use of synthetic pesticides. For that reason, it’s worth visiting your local nursery for the best options. Local species like eucalyptus, banksia and bottlebrush are fantastic options.
A gorgeous sight every season; growing your own mini orchard not only provides colour and tranquil scenery for you and your family to enjoy, but it’ll make you feel as though you’ve been transported well away from the hustle and bustle of urban living.
There are a host of other benefits, too, as growing fruit trees allow you to indulge your family’s wellbeing with fresh organic produce right on your doorstep. You’ll also be taking an extra measure to provide food and shelter to a range of insect and bird communities as fruit trees offer an intricate micro-habitat and healthy natural ecosystem that ensure these species thrive.
Composting is a great way to improve your resourcefulness and get back in touch with nature, not to mention a great contributor towards self-sufficient gardening. Depositing leftovers, peelings and other unwanted food scraps into a compost pile instead of leaving it for the rubbish tip can dramatically reduce your household waste. This method also provides a natural fertiliser to nourish all the new plants, shrubs and fruit trees you’ll be growing in your garden. And the benefits don’t stop there - compost piles are fantastic habitats for earthworms, ground beetles and frogs.
All wildlife need a constant supply of clean water, and a fresh water source will go a long way to ensuring both their arrival and stay.
Unlike traditional raised birdbaths that don’t give other creatures a chance, opt for a shallow bowl at ground level that encourages other species to feed. Even crevices and inclines on rocks are a great spot for butterflies and other flying insects to sip. If you happen to have an unused, swampy area within your yard where rainwater and mud gather, it could be a great spot to dig up and convert into a pond for fish, frogs and birds. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and space permits, you may even want to install a fountain or decorative water feature. However, sometimes you can’t go past a good old-fashioned sprinkler to bring birds back into your yard!
Insects are an essential part of any thriving garden, with certain insects helping to manage and diminish the populations of harmful insects whilst also being responsible for the pollination of ornamental flowers and food crops. By giving these insects a home, you can contribute to their growing numbers.
Bug hotels come in many different shapes and sizes and can be built from ready-made kits or designed from scratch using a bit of imagination and repurposed materials. Check out our blog ‘Create a DIY Bug Hotel For Your Garden’ for the best tips, ideas and inspiration.
Corridors and other nesting spots
Wildlife corridors are passageways that animals can pass through to get from one location to another. Through generating stepping stones that link previously isolated or fragmented habitats, these wildlife corridors allow species to find the food, shelter, and breeding prospects they need to survive.
Instead of committing your space to king-sized patios and large planters, consider building corridors and laneways that allow foot traffic between mammals, birds, insects and humans, so that each can coexist peacefully. The great thing is you don’t need to redesign your whole garden either. For the most significant impact, particularly in small suburban yards, choose plants that can home a variety of species. Think of an abundance of trees and shrubs as opposed to perennials!
To make life a little easier for garden visitors, you might also want to install a birdhouse, which offers a safe space for birds to nest and gives them protection from weather conditions and predators. Logs and stick piles in and around your bushes, shrubs, and garden edges also provide refuges for various species.
Maintaining your wildlife garden
An environmentally sensitive approach to gardening will go a long way to securing the future of your wildlife garden. Two of the easiest ways to preserve your wildlife garden are to eliminate the use of insecticides and to avoid deadheading your flora too quickly in the cooler months.
Much of the wildlife attracted to your garden will feed on aged flower heads or stems as they pursue their seeds and insects. A more lenient approach to letting your flora grow out will also contribute to the ‘forest look’ and allow wildlife to familiarise themselves with your plants and flowers' size over more extended periods.