You can create various habitats within your garden to provide safe shelter, food sources and nesting sites to attract a number of wildlife species to your garden. These can be achieved by either physical structures or by landscape planting.
In landscaping or creating wildlife habitat in your garden it is best to source landscape materials ‘sustainably'. For example, if you wish to provide rocks or logs for wildlife to shelter under or bask in the sun on, then do not source them from native bush areas. By doing so, you are removing valuable natural wildlife habitat for many species in the wild.
Avoid buying logs with natural hollows as this will encourage the destruction and removal of valuable hollow bearing trees (dead or alive) from natural bushland areas.
There are many alternatives you can use which you may already have available. Some examples are terracotta or plastic pots or bits of pipe or scrap timber - these can create great shelters and nest sites for a range of species. If you do not have suitable materials at home, then visit the local recycle depot at your nearest waste management disposal site and see what treasures you may find.
Artificial rocks can easily be made at home. These rocks can be created by making bowl shaped depressions in a pile of fat sand. Pour concrete into the depression, lay chicken wire over the concrete to reinforce it and pour more concrete to cover the chicken wire. Leave to dry and allow the concrete to set. When set, turn your mould over and render the surface with portions of sand and pigment to create a naturalistic look. To create a mossy appearance, pour old milk, rice or potato liquid over the mould and if you have some moss or lichen growing nearby collect the fruiting spores and sprinkle over the surface of the mould.
Lizard ‘lounges' can be constructed from old rotting logs or fence palings and stones, arranged to provide hides from predators with spots for sun baking.
Thickets of spiky sedges and native grasses provide areas for visiting bandicoots to make day nests, from which they emerge in the twilight to feed on corbie grubs in lawns and other soil organisms.
The threatened Green and Gold Frog, once a common inhabitant of garden ponds, likes to sunbake on the water surface, either in the shallows or on floating water plants, so letting some sun onto the garden pond surface is important for this species.
Consider the use of native plant species for hedges or privacy screens. There are a number of native plant species which can effectively be used to create attractive hedges which have the additional benefit of providing safe nest sites, shelter from predators and food source for a variety of wildlife species. Some examples that can be grown include
Leptospermum species, White
Kunzea Kunzea ambigua and Prickly Box
Bursaria spinosa - you can grow these using the same species, or a mix to create diversity. A native plant hedge or screen can be pruned and clipped to create a neat and uniform screen to the size and height you wish.
Leaf litter, twigs, fallen branches and logs left on the ground provide valuable habitat and shelter for numerous species of insects, spiders, beetles, slugs, worms, lizards and frogs which in turn become valuable food for birds and larger animals. This material also provides great mulch for keeping weeds down and helping with water retention.
Decaying organic matter, leaf litter, logs and branches provide habitat for fungi. There is great value and beauty in the variety of fungi species we have. Fungi, moss and lichen grow on fallen timber and help with the decaying process, returning valuable nutrients back to the soil. Fungi are also a valuable food source for many invertebrates and native mammals, such as bandicoots and bettongs.
You do not have to have all your garden as messy piles of debris, but do consider leaving some areas of fallen leaf litter, branches, logs or other material to provide habitat for wildlife. These can be out of the way corners of your garden - leave them and save yourself time in maintenance and upkeep. The rubbish corner becomes the habitat corner.
Native hardwood chips is the preferred mulching material as it attracts native invertebrates.
Pine mulch tends to favour introduced invertebrates, such as the European slater, which is often distasteful to native bird species. Pine mulch also displaces many beneficial native invertebrates.
Before you burn your garden rubbish heap - spare a thought!
If you have cleared or tidied up an area and prepared piles for later burning - spare a thought for those creatures who may have taken up residence in the meantime.
This is especially so for piles left for some time to dry - birds could have built nests, or bandicoots, there may be lizards and a whole array of other animals, inclusive of invertebrates. Perhaps you could consider rebuilding a fresh pile just prior to burning, starting with a smaller heap and adding to it from the original pile when you burn. This will give the wildlife in the pile a chance to escape. Alternatively, you could spread the contents of the pile on your garden as mulch or create a ‘habitat woodpile' using branches or logs.
Illustration by Kris Schaffer