We are in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis that threatens our very existence on planet earth. Thankfully, if you have a garden, there are several easy steps that you can take to conserve biodiversity and attract new wildlife. Read on to discover some of them.
Don’t Keep Your Garden too Tidy or Structured
If you want to attract and conserve biodiversity in your garden, don’t keep it too tidy or structured. Untidiness is excellent for biodiversity as natural debris offers habitat and food for many different species.
For example, instead of tidying your garden in the fall, wait until early spring. Many insects and small animals overwinter under dead leaves, in the dried stalks of flowers and hollow stems. If you wait until temperatures start to warm up again, you’ll allow all these hibernating guests the chance to leave after having spent a safe winter in your garden.
Similarly, in the summer, don’t clean up too quickly. Deadwood and leaves provide valuable nutrients for a vast range of insects. Piles of stones and sandy areas provide valuable habitat. Instead of getting rid of all these things, group them in inconspicuous places throughout the garden.
Conserve Biodiversity in Your Garden by Avoiding Using Chemicals
Chemicals, such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, are commonly used to help plants grow. Unfortunately, such chemicals are harmful to biodiversity. They contaminate the soil and water and poison wildlife such as insects and birds.
An easy way to avoid using fertilizers is to add a layer of compost to your garden beds every year. Doing so will enrich your soil and provide nutrients for your plants. You can buy compost or make it yourself. To do it yourself, combine organic materials such as fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells and coffee grounds and yard waste in a compost bin. Over a year or two, the material will decompose, and you will have compost that you can use in your garden. As a bonus, composting also reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.
To avoid using herbicides, make a few changes to how your garden is structured. Ensure that plants are planted close enough together so that no bare patches of earth remain. This way, there is little space for weeds, and the amount of weeding you will have to do is minimized. If you have areas in your garden where you are constantly fighting back weeds, plant something there to outcompete them.
Although pests can be a problem, most of them have natural predators that you can focus on attracting instead of using pesticides. For example, ladybugs can eat 20-25 aphids a day, while their larvae can eat up to 300 daily.
To attract these predators, keep your garden pesticide-free. Also, plant a variety of plants, preferably pollinator-friendly and/or native.
Naturalize Your Lawn (Or Part of it)
An effective way to help biodiversity flourish is to naturalize your lawn. Lawns are unnatural monocultures that offer very little value to biodiversity and are water and pesticide-intensive to maintain. Unfortunately, despite this, they take up large amounts of space in most gardens.
Consider a lawn-free garden as an alternative (planting a mixture of perennials, shrubs and grasses instead). If you are attached to the look of a lawn, consider an eco-lawn, a clover lawn or a wildflower lawn.
Plant Native, Pollinator-Friendly Plants
Planting native species or navitars is another way to preserve biodiversity in your garden. Native plants are plants that are indigenous to a specific geographical area. Nativars are plants that have been cultivated from natives for particular features such as bigger or smaller size than the native variety, longer bloom times or different colours.
While all plants provide food and shelter, native species and navitars offer precisely the food and shelter that local wildlife needs to survive. This food and shelter favours local biodiversity over imported or invasive biodiversity. In many cases, certain local wildlife species are entirely dependent on native plants to survive. For example, the monarch butterfly caterpillar feeds solely on milkweed native to Ontario and other Canadian regions.
Native plants and navitars also require less care and less water than non-natives. They are better adapted to the local environment. Non-native plants often need fertilizer, pesticides and regular watering to flourish, all of which harms biodiversity.
Ideally, at least 50% percent of every garden should be made up of native or nativar plants. If you use nativars, stay away from those with double flowers. It is difficult for pollinators to access the pollen and nectar. Examples of natives which are particularly great for biodiversity include Serviceberry, Joe Pye Weed, Anise Hyssop and Coneflower. The remaining 50% should emphasize pollinator-friendly plants, such as Lavender, Cosmos and perennial Geraniums. Preserving pollinators is particularly vital as our food system would collapse without them.
Remove Invasive Plants to Conserve Biodiversity in Your Garden
Removing any invasive plants in your garden is crucial if you want to help conserve biodiversity. An invasive species is a species that is not indigenous to an area and causes immense harm by outcompeting native species and taking over the available resources. This means that anything that feeds or shelters the native species which are being decimated will also, in turn, be affected until the entire native ecosystem is under threat.
If you have invasive species in your garden, it is vital to get rid of them quickly. If they are left to thrive, they will take up valuable space in your garden while providing no biodiversity value. Also, invasive species can quickly spread to gardens, parks and wild areas near your home. Common invasive species in Ontario include phragmites, garlic mustard and dog strangling vine.
Some invasive species such as periwinkle, lily-of-the-valley and winged euonymus are still being sold in garden centres. Therefore, be careful not to buy these for your garden. There are plenty of beautiful, native alternatives to these plants, which will enhance your gardens’ biodiversity potential.
Birds are beautiful creatures that enhance any garden with their songs and bright colours. To attract a wide variety of birds to your garden, you need three things: food, water and shelter.
The first, easy step is to put a bird feeder in your garden. Next, you can plant fruit and berry trees, shrubs and flowers that birds eat. For example, you can plant Crabapples, Mountain Ash berries, Serviceberry, Nannyberry, Sunflowers or Coneflowers.
Finally, birdhouses are another great way to encourage birds to make their home in your garden.
Attracting birds to your garden will also make it easier for you to maintain a pest-free garden without the use of chemicals. Birds are voracious bug and slug eaters, and they will keep populations of harmful pests down for you.
Add Water to your Garden
Water is life! This is just as true for biodiversity as it is for humans. No matter the size of your garden, including some water will multiply the amount of biodiversity your bit of property can support.
Even the smallest garden can usually accommodate a birdbath, where birds, bees and butterflies can drink, clean themselves and cool down in the heat. Just be sure to keep it filled up, as regular visitors to your garden will rely on it being there. Ideally, refill it from your water butt rather than from the tap – rainwater is healthier for biodiversity than treated water. If you have more space in your garden, consider a pond. Depending on the size, it will support a lot of wildlife, making your garden a biodiversity haven.
Build an Insect Hotel and a Rock Garden
To provide additional shelter for the insects in your garden, consider installing or building an insect hotel. Rock piles, log piles and leaf piles also provide shelter and nutrition for various insects and more. You can also turn insect hotels into ornamental or practical focal points. You can do this by creating a rockery or an insect hotel bench.
Hire an Eco-Landscape Company
Unfortunately, many landscape companies and gardeners still prioritize ease and speed at the cost of biodiversity and the planet. Therefore, if you are hiring a landscaping company or a gardener, make sure that they are environmentally friendly and prioritize sustainable practices. This way, you can work together towards a garden that is beautiful and sustainable.
Conclusion: Many Ways to Conserve Biodiversity in Your Garden
In conclusion, there are many ways that you can conserve biodiversity in your garden. Attracting and conserving biodiversity will make your garden more alive and beautiful and help protect the planet at the same time.