Attracting local wildlife to your garden is a great idea. Not only will you be creating an environment for native creatures to thrive, but you will also improve the quality and health of your garden. Depending on your location, acreage and climate zone, you can attract a wide variety of wonderful wildlife. Birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, as well as small mammals and marsupials, all play an important role in the ecosystem! Here are some tips on what you can do to bring them into your backyard.
As with any living thing, you should consider the basic needs of the creature. Water, food and shelter are the top three things to think about. For example, having a birdbath, nesting boxes and native flowering plants throughout your garden is a great way to attract and take care of native birds.
Keep your pets inside
Many animal lovers will be disappointed with this idea, but pets can be a real issue standing in the way of a thriving, diverse garden. Cats and dogs prey on little creatures and can scare off any chance of visitors.
If you do have outdoor pets, try keeping an area for your animals and another for your wildlife by fencing off sections of your garden. That way you have separate spaces, and can hopefully keep both domestic and wild animals happy. If your cat is having a play in the garden, using a bell on their collar is a great idea. Alternatively, you might want to establish your wildlife-friendly area in another part of the property – say in your front yard rather than the backyard.
Plan out your wildlife-friendly garden
It’s important before you begin making alterations to you garden to have a plan of what you want to achieve, as different animals need different things to thrive. Knowing which animals are common to your area, what trees are permanent fixtures in the space and what kind of soil you have are good places to start. From there, you can assess what kind of plants you should be growing and what other features you need to install.
Shrubs and trees are ideal for birds, who rest and shelter amongst branches. Using mulch, compost and other organic materials is a great way to encourage insects. That way you’re also providing a sustainable food source for birds and other larger creatures. Small reptiles like skinks and other lizards are cold-blooded and require warmth to survive. In the wild, they will bask in the sunlight in hot areas, so a good way to encourage them to visit your garden is to place large rocks and stones throughout the space. These heat up in the sun and are a great resting spot for the small creatures.
Pick out your plants
Just like the last stage suggests, you should plan ahead before you begin planting. How big is your garden? How much sun does your area get? Is your soil sandy and bone dry, or nutrient-rich with great drainage? These are all important questions to ask yourself and will effect which plants you should be putting in.
Eucalypts, banksias, waratahs, angophoras and grevilleas are all natives that will attract nectar-feeding birds such as honeyeaters, wattlebirds and spinebills. Lorikeets and rosellas will also feed on these plants, as well as seeds from tea trees, acacias and casuarinas.
Planting native flowers is one of the easiest and most important steps to diversifying your garden and attract nectar-feeding birds and insects. Not only do these creatures feed on the nectar, but by moving from plant to plant they also spread pollen and pollinate other flowers. This is great for the health of your plants and allows them to reproduce. If you can ensure that you have flowering natives in your garden throughout the year in different flowering seasons, you’ll be well on your way to a thriving ecosystem.
Butterflies and moths are also great things to have in the garden. And unless caterpillars are doing serious damage to your plants, avoid getting rid of them! They will eventually blossom into the moths and butterflies that will help pollinate your garden. Daisies (everlasting and brachyscome) are beneficial because of their nectar and the flowers themselves provide a great spot to land. Other attractive plants include grevilleas, pimeleas, lomandras and flax lilies.
If you choose native plants, not only are you ensuring a great food source for animals, but also significantly increases the likelihood of a thriving garden. Such species are ‘built’ to withstand the extremes of Australian weather. Ask your local nursery which plants prosper in your area, to give yourself the best chance of success.
Avoid using pesticides, as chemicals will significantly affect the appeal of your garden to helpful birds and insects. Check out “Starting Your Own Organic Veggie Patch” for advice on setting up an organic garden that uses techniques including mulching, compositing and crop rotation to keep plants happy, healthy and pest-free without the use of unnatural products.
Try to avoid providing supplementary feeding sources all the time, as birds will become used to eating processed seeds which can make them sick, whilst simultaneously reducing their ability to find their own food.
Provide habitats and water
Different animals require different habitats, whether for nesting or simply sheltering from predators.
Think about the multiple purposes of the things you include in your garden. Flowers and shrubs will provide food to some, whilst providing shelter from the elements and camouflage for others. Something like a small pond will provide a habitat for amphibians like frogs and small reptiles, and also serve as a water source to birds and other creatures. You can also introduce a bird bath, which will make a great feature in your garden and reliable water source.
You should consider putting nesting boxes in the branches of small trees and shrubs around your garden to encourage birds to make your backyard their home. You can buy them from hardware stores, or even have a go at making one yourself. Make sure to put some wood shavings at the bottom of your nesting box, as some parrots won’t nest in them otherwise.
As well as placing large rocks and stones around your space to encourage basking, introducing a rockery containing stones, logs and sticks will provide shelter for lizards. Logs also encourage small insects, which are a great food source for lizards and birds. Rockeries can make a great garden feature, so think about the aesthetics as well as the practicalities when you’re designing it! Try surrounding the area with small shrubs to create a nice effect.
There’s no blueprint for creating a perfect, thriving ecosystem. Every garden is different, especially in different areas of the country. If you have a number of flowering plants and fruit trees, you may need to use netting to discourage birds from feeding on your favourites! Just make sure you check your nets regularly, as some creatures may get stuck.
Start small with your garden – you don’t need to totally redesign your backyard immediately. Try planting a couple of flowering natives and mulching your garden. You’ll be surprised how quickly you will begin to attract a range of fabulous fauna!