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Grow an indigenous garden

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Growing indigenous and endemic plants in your backyard helps extend remnant patches of native fauna, attracts native wildlife to your garden and conserves biodiversity. So get your hands dirty and enjoy the rewards.

Climate change poses real threats to indigenous flora and fauna, much of which is already under threat from urbanisation and modern agricultural practices. It is more important than ever that we do our bit to protect habitats. By using indigenous plants in your own garden you can create havens for plants, insects, lizards, possums, butterflies and birds, thus enhancing local biodiversity.

In the last 200 years, much of our country has been cleared. Our wetlands have been drained, our rivers polluted and diverted. Feral animals and weeds have had a devastating impact on indigenous flora and fauna. Australia, along with the rest of the world, is facing a biodiversity crisis. We have one of the world's worst records for land clearing and associated species extinction. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment states that because of the rate and extent of biodiversity loss, we can no longer rely on the planet to support our lifestyles.

By growing indigenous plants, we can assist in protecting and promoting our local flora and fauna and give the world's biodiversity a helping hand.

How to do it now!

Growing indigenous plants for wildlife requires consideration of our native fauna's basic needs. Hence, we need to provide them with food, water, shelter and protection from predators.

Follow these easy steps to create a haven for wildlife in your own backyard.

Get to know your site.  Take a look at your garden and see what you already have that is useful to wildlife. Take time to note down where the sunny and shady spots are. Consider whether there are variations in moisture in the garden. Is there a warm rock or log for a dozing lizard? The more diversity your garden can provide, the greater diversity you will be able to support.

Create a plan. Indigenous plants are suitable for all kinds of sites and conditions. You might need some inspiration and design ideas; a great way to be enthused is to visit some gardens. Many councils use indigenous plantings in their own gardens, so visit their sites. For more tips on designing for wildlife visit the following links:

With this information in mind you can think about an appropriate design for your garden. It doesn't need to be detailed or done by an expert. You can simply list what plants you want where, knowing the site and the conditions these plants like.

And remember, good nursery staff are always happy to talk.

Seek professional assistance with the selection of plants. Take your plan and talk to the experts about what plants will attract fauna and which best suit your site, conditions and personal taste. Remember, the more suitable they are the less work required.

  • Visit and talk with your local indigenous nursery. The Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) has a very comprehensive website listing native and indigenous nurseries across the country.
  • Contact your local council or environmental groups. Many local councils have information about local or indigenous plants and nurseries, and also offer advice. Alternatively, there may be a local bush regeneration group that has expertise in this area.

Factors to consider when selecting plants to encourage wildlife:

  • Food - Providing food for wildlife is essential. All parts of the plants provide food for animals and insects - seeds, nectar, sap, fruits, leaves and roots. Other animals rely on the insects that feed on the plants. Ensure you plan for a wide variety of plants and insects in your garden.
  • Water - Bringing water to your site can be as simple as providing a bird bath, or creating a bog garden by accentuating a natural incline in the garden. Not all gardens require a water feature, but it will increase the diversity of fauna.
  • Protection & shelter - Many of our native plants are prickly which provides important refuge against predators for small native animals. Leaf litter and mulch, logs, even a pile of old bricks can provide important shelter for insects, lizards and other animals. Cats are a particular problem in the urban environment and it's important to restrict cats from entering your garden.

Start planting. Now comes the easy part. Check out Sustainable Gardening Australia for some easy-to-follow planting tips.

Encourage others to go native. Show off your new garden to neighbours and friends. Encourage them to plant indigenous species in order to create wildlife corridors, those passages of native vegetation which support the free movement of indigenous species and enhance their chances of survival.

Why is this action important?

The benefits of biodiversity are immeasurable. There is no life without it. Our food, medicine, clothing, shelter and all our industrial resources are the products of biodiversity. It is integral to the maintenance of ecological systems, to climate regulation, to continued water cycles and to pollution breakdown. It takes CO2 out of the air and puts it back into the soil. In short, biodiversity is life on earth.