Encouraging biodiversity at home
The first tip for encouraging
biodiversity at home is don't go to your local shop and buy anything labelled
"butterfly home" or "food for native birds".
The best way to encourage biodiversity
is to grow trees and plants which are native to your area and which will be
the ones most likely to provide the best food and shelter for native animals. The
next step is to work with your local catchment group or council to encourage
more people to garden this way.
Here are some general principles and
links to further information. This is written for people in Perth city, but
the principles will apply anywhere.
1. do no harm.
that pile of wood in your yard might be
a home for geckos, or that pile of weeds a source of insects which local
birds are feeding on. Before doing anything, take the time to observe what is already living
in your garden. In the meantime do some research and find out which
plants are native to your area. Visit nurseries and see which plants might
fit into your garden, aesthetically and otherwise. Make a plan and prepare
to introduce new plants in autumn, the best time to establish native plants.
Walk around your neighbourhood to see who else is growing locals. Strike up a
also do no harm in the wider sense.
Never take plants or materials from bush. A granite boulder removed from
bushland will deprive a lizard of its home, where it warmed up in the
morning and sheltered at night.
2. change to a habitat friendly garden
change your garden to
incorporate more plants native to your area. Known as "local plants", they
are the ones most likely to provide food and shelter for native animals. Plants from
elsewhere may provide food, but are also more likely to feed invasive
and pest animals. Read about growing
local plants and
catchment friendly gardens elsewhere on this website. If you live in the
Perth inner city download
a grow local plants brochure. Change your garden over a period of time to
minimise disturbance. Observe which plants grow well.
you will have to develop a new way of
thinking about your garden. For example that gum tree with leaves
affected by insect damage is really a bountiful larder to birds like
honeyeaters (they are called honeyeaters but most of their food is insects)
and that perfect looking exotic tree with not one insect on it, is
completely barren to any animal looking for food. Throw away your pesticides
and let the birds deal with the insects.
in time you may want to add a pond to
your garden or plants for a specific
animal that you have observed in your local area or would like to attract to
your area. There are great books, websites and often support groups who can
provide advice to get you started. In this era of water shortages, a pond
may not seem sensible, but a pond filled in winter from rainwater runoff
from the roof, and left to dry out naturally in summer will suit several
species of frog that live on the swan coastal plain. After all
winter-wet/summer-dry wetlands were pretty common here. The frogs will
burrow into the ground through summer and be back when winter rains arrive.
Note: You may need to avoid watering your garden too heavily through summer
as this can confuse the frogs.
3. control your pets
people who think the sight of their
pussy cat wandering through the local park is beautiful are sadly deluded.
Cats are beautiful, but they shouldn't be wandering at large through parks
and bushland. A bell is not going to stop your clever predator from catching
his bird - the bell is often the last sound a bird will hear before it is
caught. Be responsible, keep your cat indoors and consider putting in a cat
park (fancy name for large cage). When designing your garden, include dense
thickets of prickly plants to deter predator animals such as around frog ponds.
4. read, learn, network
learn what makes good habitat. Thick
leaf litter is fundamental but many people rake it up for aesthetic reasons.
Be creative and work out how to have a garden that not only looks good but
is good, for animals that is. Join a gardening club, catchment group,
conservation group, volunteer with Birds Australia as a bird observer. You
will meet people, talk and learn on the way. Borrow library books. If you
live in Perth, start with
Growing Locals (1996) by Robert Powell and Jane Emberson. Click
here for more reading
suggestions. Sign up for
email newsletters such as the Victorian Sustainable Gardening e-newsletter.
www.sgaonline.org.au If you are a
Perth reader you may have to ignore the advice about individual species (a
WA native plant can be a weed in Victoria), but the general principles
remain the same. Very good reading.
5. remove weeds
once you understand your garden, over
time, remove weed plants. They are more likely to be attracting "weed" type
animals, the sort of animals that thrive in disturbed environments. Remove
them gradually and replace with local natives. Also plan how you will
dispose of the weeds. Mulch, compost or simply leave in a black plastic bag
in the sun for a couple of months. If you do it gradually, you will be able
to use the waste in your own garden and not be sending it to landfill where
it will create carbon emissions leading to ...
in general don't put out food. Firstly
human food is unlikely to provide a good diet for animals, but also they are
wildlife, let them remain wild and feed themselves, not come to rely on your
handouts. We could go on (and on) about this but for now please print out
our Don't Feed the Ducks
poster to put up at your work, school and fridge.
6. branch out
extend your habitat garden to the
front verge. Tell your neighbours what you are doing (they will come and ask) and
they might do the same on their verge. Extend it even further to your local
park, community garden, community centre. Contact your council to see
if they have any projects you can assist with.
us and tell us your experiences in habitat gardening.