Sparrow and Finch Gardening Your garden is an ecosystem that needs to be looked after

Your garden is an ecosystem that needs to be looked after

Whether you live in an urban apartment or a rural homestead, your outdoor area is more than just a private space. Ecologically, a garden is another jigsaw piece in the landscape.

No matter how big or small, gardens can have a positive impact on the natural processes and functions of the area. For example, they can regulate water drainage, reduce the harmful effects of strong winds, and provide food and shelter to native wildlife.

The presence of wildlife in urban areas depends on their specific food and shelter requirements, their response to disturbances, and the quantity and quality of green space in the landscape.

A home garden can be a haven for larger animals such as birds or mammals. It could also be a home for smaller animals such as bugs.

Gardening with Pollinators is an easy way to promote biodiversity in urban areas where space is limited. Depending on the landscape surrounding your home, pollinator habitat will also serve as a habitat for other animals.

Butterflies play an important role in backyard pollination. John Tann/FlickrCC BY

Flowers are only the beginning.

Flowers are the primary source of sugar (nectar), protein (pollen), and other nutrients for insects and birds. native honey bee larvae are almost entirely dependent on the pollen that their parents collect. This is why flowers are vital to growing native bee populations.

There is not one best flower combination for wild bees. Online lists of “plants for bees” are often based upon local knowledge and do not always apply to all regions. The general rule for a pollinator’s garden is to have a variety of flowers that bloom for the majority of the year.

Native Plants can be used to attract native pollinators, such as insects and birds. However, many exotic plants are also popular, including herbs, fruits and vegetables. Modern hybrids should be carefully chosen, as many are bred to have commercial traits in fruit or flowers (such as size or color), but lack the nectar and scent that will attract pollinators.

Native plants, like this New Holland Honeyeater can attract birds. Cazz/Flickr

Build it, and they will Come

The design and structure of a garden will determine which wildlife species visit or choose to live there. A vertical structure built with multiple layers of plants at different heights provides more space for wildlife. The small plants and shrubs are good for insects and smaller birds. Larger trees and larger birds will visit the area.

Insects and small lizards can find shelter in large trees that have rough bark or shed. Conifers, acacias, and eucalyptus trees that produce sap and resin are useful to some native wasp and bee species. These species use resin to seal nest cells.

Insect Hotels are a great way to provide homes for insects who nest normally in dead wood. Only a small percentage of bee species nest in wood. Around 75% of the bee species in the world dig their nests deep into the earth, usually on sandy, uncompacted ground. They prefer a slope where they won’t become waterlogged.

Insect hotel images from attract wood-nesting insect. Image of an insect hotel from

While it can be challenging to fit all this into a small garden, many pollinator insect species have home ranges that are only a few hundred meters, whereas birds and mammals travel much farther. Landscape composition can influence wildlife potential in a garden. High proportions of paved surfaces can decrease the number of native bird or wild honey bees in the neighborhood. can have a negative impact on wild bee.

Food Chain Disruption

As with any ecosystem, gardens are a complex web of life. From the soil microbes below the ground to the birds that live in the trees, there is a lot going on. It is easy to grab a spray bottle and kill the dandelions, but what about the side effects?

The animals and plants that we consider a nuisance in the backyard often perform services we do not see. Many native species of wasps and flies (even the blowflies!) are pollinators. As adults, they are pollinators. As larvae, they can control many of the pest insects we see on plants or decompose wastes. Geckos and skinks are small reptiles that feed on insects like mosquitoes or midges.

Dandelions, clover, and other plants that we consider lawn weeds are actually favorite foods for native bees. As they feed on plants, scale insects and aphids produce honeydew, a sweet substance. This sugary substance is important for beneficial insects such as wasps, bees, and hoverflies.

Aphids are a source of sugars that other insects use as food. ron_n_beths pics/FlickrCC BY-NC

One of the easiest ways to improve wildlife in gardens is by limiting synthetic chemical use. Insecticides may kill beneficial insects or indirectly affect them by disrupting metabolism or reproduction cycles. Herbicide overuse can remove important food sources, such as dandelions, which pollinators depend on when other flowers are scarce.

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