Creating A Habitat Garden

The benefits of having wildlife in your garden are many; it can be a source of entertainment and enjoyment and is a great way of educating kids about the environment.  This blog will provide some tips to encourage creatures into your garden and make them feel welcome.

One of the main discouraging factors to wildlife in gardens is cleanliness.  Wildlife likes to have places to hide.  By treating our lawns like our carpets, we effectively create wide open spaces that can leave animals feeling exposed.  On the other hand, you do not want to have to battle a jungle every time you hang your washing out.  A good compromise can be to designate a small section of your garden to habitat and allowing this area to grow wild.  Ideally ensure that it is linked in some way to another wild area; an island in the middle of the garden will be of less use to wildlife compared to a section that is linked by a shrub bed to another wild space.

Gog and Magog (The Oaks of Avalon), Glastonbury, UK.  Thought to be circa 2000 years old.  A paradise for all manner of critters.

Gog and Magog (The Oaks of Avalon), Glastonbury, UK. Thought to be circa 2000 years old. A paradise for all manner of critters.

When pruning trees or shrubs you could choose to keep some of the debris behind.  Deadwood is great for this.  The decomposing wood is food for bugs which in turn are food for larger animals.  These collections of dead wood also provide shelter for smaller animals such as skinks and lizards.  Piles of deadwood or branches can be dotted around the garden to create these little Oasis’s for wildlife.  These piles do not have to be on display.  They can be tucked away, out of sight, with no visual disturbance to the rest of the garden.

Native wetland habitats are great for wildlife

Native wetland habitats are great for wildlife

Having good sources of food in your garden year-round will also make it attractive for wildlife.  Whether it is flowers to attract pollinating insects, fruit and seeds for birds, or bugs for lizards and skinks; the plants you have in your garden can greatly affect the menu on offer.  Some form of water feature will also help to bring creatures in. As a general rule, native trees and shrubs will offer the best sources of food for native wildlife.  Check with your nursery or arborist for advice on species that will provide fruit and flowers at different times of the year.

Some man-made materials can be used as shelter for wildlife too.  Old pieces of tin roof can be quite attractive to lizards.  You can be creative in how you do it, maybe creating a sculpture which at the same time serves as a holiday home for reptiles.  Another option might be a “bug hotel” made from bamboo canes and other tubes tied together.

You can never have too much wood chip

You can never have too much wood chip

It is important that you do not introduce chemicals into your garden if you want to encourage wildlife.  Natural fertilizers and weed suppressants can be used.  As an all-round go to, you cannot beat well-rotted wood chip or compost.  A thick layer of compost will keep weeds down, will act as a slow release fertilizer, and will act as a safe haven for many forms of wildlife.

For anyone wishing to read more about this subject please click on the following links:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-activities/attract-lizards-to-your-garden/

http://www.organicpathways.co.nz/garden/story/76.html

http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-activities/attract-birds-to-your-garden/what-to-plant/