ATTRACTING WILDLIFE TO THE GARDEN
We don’t just mean birds when we talk about attracting wildlife to the garden. There are a host of other animals that are already in your garden and many more that you will be able to encourage if you follow our suggestions.
Lizards and Chameleons, Frogs and Toads, and all the friendly insects that can survive in your garden have specific needs and will help you to enjoy a well balanced garden full of ‘urban wildlife”.
WHAT TO DO
1. Create exclusion areas in your garden – these are areas densely planted with shrubs, which are seldom interfered with by the gardener. The shy Thrushes, Shrikes and Coucals will utilise these areas for feeding and nesting. Place a feeding table in the thick bush with meat and fruit – the Doves and Sparrows generally avoid the bushy parts of the garden. This is also an ideal area for Lizards and Frogs and finely chopped meat on the ground level will keep these fellows fat.
2. Provide at least one tall tree, which will act as a nesting facility and a look-out point for birds. Our indigenous acacias are the finest nesting trees available and in particular the Fever Tree (Acacia Xanthophloea) which looks great when planted in a group of three, placed about 2 m apart.
3. Water should be provided for the thirsty urban inhabitants and two sources should be offered, one in the thick bushy area and one in an open area of the garden. Remember that the container or pond should have gently sloping sides.
4. Hollow nesting logs or wooden boxes can be placed high in a tree to try and attract birds such as Barbets, Hoopoes and Owls. Once established, the birds will use the nest year after year.
5. Don’t remove all the leaves and grass clippings from the garden, place them between the shrubs. This organic material can be supplemented with Mulch to provide a layer, which protects and conditions your soil as well as hosting the natural insect populations, which feed the birds. To provide a fertile soil which will improve the growth of the plants work in Kraal Manure and Compost. Most indigenous plants respond well to rich soils despite popular belief
AVOID THE FOLLOWING
1. Don’t spray your garden routinely with insecticides as this may kill off the “friendly” insects as well as many other animals. It is possible to obtain a balance between predator insects like the Ladybird and prey insects like the aphids. If you do encounter pest problems on your plants then spray only the affected plants a “safe” insecticide recommended by your nurseryman.
2. A sterile garden with non-functional plants and clean swept plant beds will not encourage wildlife. A combination of the best indigenous and exotic plants will provide an aesthetically pleasing garden and a haven for wildlife. Select a number of functional plants to place strategically in the garden and then fill in with other plants, which may be non-functional but have a pleasing effect in the garden.
WHICH PLANTS TO USE?
Indigenous plants are the most suited to our South African wildlife but any plant, which provides a source of food or cover can be used.
Exclusion areas should be densely planted with varieties such as the Pearl Butterfly Bush (Buddleya Auriculata), Pink Sage (Orthosiphon Labiatus), Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria Capensis) or Leadwort (Plumbago Auriculata). These areas should only be pruned once a year in the late winter, if necessary.
Trees such as the Fever Tree (Acacia Xanthophloea) and Paper Bark Acacia (Acacia Sieberana) provide ideal nesting facilities for birds. The Karee (Rhus Lancea) and White Karee (Rhus Pendulina) attract a great deal of insects when they are in flower and thus provide food for a number of bird species.
Groundcovers like the Daisy Lawn (Phyla Nodiflora) attract insects and can be used for foreground planting.
Bedding plants can be used in combination with indigenous trees and shrubs to brighten up and accentuate parts of the garden. They will also attract insects, which in turn attract birds and generally upgrade the effect of your garden. Alysum, available in white, rose and purple has a honey fragrance and provides year round colour. Poppies for winter also attract Butterflies and other insects. Don’t forget the improved indigenous bedding plants such as the Gazania, Nemesia and Dianthus.