Help protect native wildlife by creating a habitat stepping stone in your backyard!
As our population grows across Australia, the demand for housing and development increases, clearing away the natural environment that native wildlife depend on. As a result, more and more frogs, mammals, birds, reptiles and insects are seeking refuge in urban areas, which are often not suitable to keep them safe. You can help by establishing a wildlife friendly habitat garden to support our native friends.
The Backyards for Biodiversity program supports community members to create habitat stepping stones, or an area of refuge, in residential and school gardens for local wildlife. Whether you have a big backyard, a community garden, a school yard, a green rooftop or pot plants on your balcony, everyone can make a real difference for our local wildlife!
WHERE TO START
It's important to plan the design of your garden before you start planting and adding new materials. Whether it's a formal, cottage or natural bush style garden, you can use native plants to achieve a style that suits you. When planning your garden, here are a few things to consider:
Step 1: Understand the conditions of your garden space
- Sun and shade - take note of which areas get the most exposure to sunlight and the areas that are shaded.
- Soil type - knowing your soil type will ensure your plants thrive. Clay soils are usually sticky when wet, form large clumps, and can be harder to dig. Sandy soils are grittier, easier to dig through and drain water quickly.
- Moisture levels - ground moisture levels are usually a result of the type of soil you have, slopes or dips that collect water in wet seasons, or how close the soil is to a natural water source. Take note of the areas that get overly wet in winter and dry in summer.
Step 2: Assess the space
Think about the space you will need to accommodate the type and variety of plants you have in mind. Then assess the space you have available, taking note of existing paths, electricity lines and other plants or features that are staying. Start with less plants to see how big they grow, then you can fill in the gaps with a variety of other plants.
Step 3: Work with what you have
You don’t have to remove all your existing plants and trees to create a thriving habitat garden, even if they are exotic. Incorporate a variety of native plants into your current design. If you feel there is already enough greenery in your space, consider adding an insect hotel, bird bath, gabion or a small frog pond.
You can help encourage the return of native wildlife to your local area by offering shelter and food throughout the year in your school or home gardens. In a good native garden you could expect to see a variety of birds, insects, bats, small animals, reptiles and maybe even frogs.
What plants do I choose?
Conditions are different in every backyard so make sure you choose plants that are adapted to your local conditions, soil and rainfall. Planting natives to your local area is ideal as they have adapted to local conditions. They have evolved with wildlife over thousands of years, helping each other to survive, and therefore require less maintenance than conventional exotic plants.
When creating your garden try to create different vegetation layers for shade and shelter and make sure there is something flowering all year round. Dense or prickly shrubs provide protection for small birds and nectar-producing plants will attract insects and butterflies. Adding new plants from time to time will help to increase diversity.
Download the plant list below to find out which native trees, shrubs, ground coverings and grasses are suitable for the local area.
Native plants often take a while to settle after being planted. To make sure they get a great start follow these 5 easy steps:
Step 1: Digging the hole
Dig a hole and ensure it is deeper than the container your plant comes in. It should roughly be twice as deep and twice as wide as the container. Loosen the wall of soil around the edge of the hole if it's too compact. This will allow the roots to spread, push through and grow.
Step 2: Water the seedling
Water the seedling well before removing it from the container it comes in. This will make it easier to get the plant out as a whole. An easy way to do this is to soak the container (without submerging the leaves) into a bucket of water for a couple of minutes.
Step 3: Removing the seedling
Release the plant from the container by holding it upside down. Tap or squeeze the bottom gently to release it while holding the soil in place. Do not try to pull the plant out of the pot by its leaves or stems as it will break it. If the roots are twisted tightly around the soil, gently loosen them up.
Step 4: Planting
Place the seedling in the hole, then push soil back into the hole around it, making sure all gaps are covered. Push down firmly on the soil. Spread mulch around the plant to stimulate growth. Use aged mulch to avoid losing nitrogen from the soil.
Step 5: Watering
Newly planted seedlings need to be soaked with water. A good soaking encourages the roots to become stronger by growing deeper and reduces evaporation.
After planting, water the seedling once a week for six weeks. If it's planted in a pot or in hot windy conditions, you can water more often. Even though most native plants can tolerate dry conditions, newly planted seedlings should be watered well while they are establishing.
A good native garden would often attract a variety of birds, insects, reptiles and maybe even frogs and other small animals. You can encourage wildlife to take refuge in your garden by planting native plants that provide shelter and food throughout the year.
To attract small native birds into your garden, plant a variety of dense native shrubs with prickly foliage that provide different types of food (seeds, fruits, nectar and insects). Dense spiky shrubs provide a refuge for small birds from predators. Providing a water source by placing a small bird bath near the shrubs will encourage birds to visit your garden, especially in summer months. Place your bird bath in a protected and private space so birds can enjoy bath without feeling threatened by predators.
Bees, butterflies and beneficial insects
Insects are desired in gardens as they play an essential role in pollination, control pest population in your garden and are a source of food for other fauna. Installing an insect hotel helps attract native pollinators such as the blue banded bee, lacewings and wasps. The best way to attract insects is to plant a variety of plant species as food sources, keep leaf litter for insects to live in and don’t use pesticides.
Debris like leaf litter, bark, hollow logs and rocks are great shelters for lizards. They need basking points such as paving or rocky walls at a sunny spot in your garden that is also close to shrubs that they can crawl into when danger is present. They rely on ground cover and small shrubs to forage for food.
Adding a nesting box to your garden will provide mammals like possums and sugar gliders with a home away from your roof. Large trees (eucalyptus species) and shrubs (grevilleas and bottlebrushes) provide a great food source for native mammals.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
If you don't have a garden to create a wildlife haven, here are some ways you can help support wildlife:
1. Join Canada Bay Bushcare
Bushcare is a volunteer program that enables community members to participate in the restoration, enhancement and maintenance of natural areas within the City of Canada Bay. Current areas where Bushcare groups work include:
- Concord Bushcare: Queen Elizabeth II Park, Concord, Lovedale Place, Concord West and Quarantine Reserve, Abbotsford
- Cabarita Bushcare: Prince Edward Park, Cabarita
- Sisters Bay Bushcare: Drummoyne and Russell Lea
- Yaralla Bushcare: Concord West.
Joining Bushcare is easy and we are always welcoming new volunteers. All you have to do is contact Council's Bushcare Team Leader on 9911 6555 or email email@example.com.
2. Get involved in community clean-ups
Help keep our environment clean by joining Council's Love Your Place program. You can adopt your own site or join an existing group who are working at the following sites:
- Rodd Park, Rodd Point
- Halliday Park, Five Dock
- Hen & Chicken Bay, Wareemba
- Quarantine Reserve, Abbotsford
- Concord Hospital Foreshore, Concord West
- Half Moon Bay, Drummoyne
- Cabarita Park, Cabarita
Visit the Love Your Place page to find out more about joining the program or how you can get involved in other community clean-ups in the local are.
3. Be a Riverkeeper
The Riverkeeper Program aims to connect organisations, volunteer groups and individuals to develop opportunities for the community to learn more about and care for waterway health and the conservation of the local environment in the Parramatta River catchment.
Sign up to the Riverkeeper Network here or find out about clean-ups and other events on Facebook.