Imagine our world devoid of plants and wildlife. This stark picture is enough to sour your coffee (sorry!). Unfortunately, it could be the way we’re headed in Australia, if outcomes from the recent national State of Environment Report are anything to go by.
The report shows that our biodiversity is under increased threat and continues to decline at a rapid rate. The top culprits? Feral species, urban development and habitat fragmentation.
It’s not all bleak however.
There’s plenty we can do in our own gardens to help little critters and native plants thrive. ’With a bit of thought, you can attract butterflies and other insects, lizards, birds and even small mammals, providing a valuable refuge for local wildlife’, says David Bateman from Randwick Community Nursery. Birds and other animals can also help control damaging insects.
Gardening is also great for fitness and flexibility. There are also social perks, as Bronte local Kim Isaacs has discovered, ‘Our nature strip looks more natural and loads of people comment on it. I've met lots of my neighbours in the time I spend gardening there.’
With International Day for Biodiversity on May 22, we’ve asked local experts for top tips to make wildlife-friendly gardening second nature this autumn.
1. Celebrate the differences
It’s good to grow a range of plants, including grasses, groundcovers, shrubs and several taller trees that suit different creatures. ‘Wrens, for example, seek out grasses such as Poa for nesting material’, says Bateman. He also suggests that butterflies like brightly coloured, shallow throated flowers. Smaller birds like plants that attract insect food, typically scented flowers in white, blue, cream, or yellow hues. Sunny spots are perfect for blue-tongues and other reptiles, with dense vegetation or a wood pile nearby for hiding.
2. Bring colour to your patch
Choosing plants that flower, fruit and seed in different seasons cannot only add a burst of colour to your garden, but can provide important food, especially when scarce in winter. Waverley Council Bushcare Coordinator Sue Stevens suggests the following winter-flowering plants to attract birds and insects: local wattles, native peas, and the climber/scrambler Golden Guinea Vine. For fruits, plant Lilly Pilly.
3. Nourish your garden
Give your plants a fertiliser boost now before heading into winter. As Bateman explains, ‘Plants put energy into their root zone during autumn which makes for stronger plants and lots of healthy new growth come springtime.’
Bateman recommends to also cut back on watering, but ‘remember that autumn and winter winds can be very drying’. Good rule of thumb? Water twice a week but check soil moisture to make sure plants don’t dry out.
4. Tidy with care
According to the experts, autumn is a great time for pruning. Bateman advises, ‘before you prune a shrub or tidy up a pile of leaves, think about whose home it may be’.
- Pledge to create a wildlife friendly garden and we’ll help you to do just that. secondnature.org.au
- For local native plants and advice: Visit Randwick Community Nursery
- Australia State of Environment Report: environment.gov.au/science/soe