Create a wildlife-friendly garden using ecological landscaping

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Living in an environmentally-friendly way and practising ecological landscaping primarily through the use of indigenous plants will entice all sorts of urban wildlife to your garden. and provide a functional ecosystem that will contribute to the ecology of the broader area in which you live. A string of such properties can go a long way to reducing the effects of habitat fragmentation by creating pathways made up of green stepping stones between green areas in the city. These pathways benefit genetic and species richness in all areas of the city by connecting populations and reducing pressure on isolated sites.

Malachite sunbird

Photo: Steve Bailey

Indigenous animals are far more likely to inhabit a property if it contains plants that can provide these animals with the best resources. Indigenous gardening may not create the archetypal western idea of a beautiful garden. but it brings with it a wilder, more alive and vibrant environment that can ultimately sustain itself. It will require a substantial amount of work and time to get an already transformed area of land to a point where it becomes a self-sustaining, functional ecosystem.

As with humans. plants and animals have a hierarchy of needs. and at the base of this hierarchy are food. water. cover and space. To cater to as wide a variety of species as possible. diversify the types of food items available in your garden. To cover all your bases you should ensure there is green vegetation. fruit. seeds. insects. nuts and nectar­rich flowers. This will attract many species of birds and bats, small mammals. insects. reptiles and amphibians (provided they can get into the property), and other necessary micro-organisms. It is also helpful to ensure food items are available at different and appropriate heights – particularly if you are hoping to attract a certain species. You may want to use bird feeders in winter periods when food availability is low.

bee

Photo: Marianne Golding

Having a permanent source of clean water in your garden will make it irresistible to wildlife. provided it is safe from predators and undisturbed. It is also advisable that water sources are designed in such a way that animals can get in and out of the water easily, as animals often drown in even small bodies of water if the sides are steep or slippery and they cannot get out.

dove

Photo: Marianne Golding

Garden wildlife needs sufficient cover from the elements. as well as from each other (and domestic creatures such as dogs, cats and children). Adding items such as rocks can help create shelter for small species. It is advisable not to be too tidy and to let your grass grow a little bit, particularly around the edges of beds and water features – this will provide a perfect habitat for smaller organisms. When landscaping does not allow for natural nesting opportunities. It may be useful to install artificial structures such as bird or bat boxes, although there are no guarantees these will be utilised by desired species. Any artificial houses must be accessible and ensure minimal disturbance by children and predators.

Different wildlife species require different sizes and types of habitat. Use of space in ecological landscaping is very important to ensure that animals have a variety of options, including space that is relatively undisturbed by human activity.

The basic principles of naturescaping

  • Keep the ecological integrity of the property and work with local soil. rocks, indigenous vegetation, topography and watercourses.
  • Remove all alien plants.
  • Approach pest management holistically to avoid unnecessary use of pesticides.
  • Select new plant species carefully, based on the climatic conditions of the garden and of varied height.
  • Keep pets and children away from ‘wildlife zones· in your garden.
  • Use organic mulches and fertilisers.
barbet

Photo: Steve Bailey

Written by Emily Taylor 

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