In 2013 the United Nations proclaimed the 3rd of March: World Wildlife Day, to celebrate and raise awareness for wild animals. At Life Green Group we believe conservation starts at home, and more importantly in the garden by naturescaping.
Naturescaping is a sustainable method of landscaping that pays careful attention to endemic plants and how they interact with urban wildlife. Naturescaping also focuses on other elements of the natural environment such as: soil, geology and climate - keeping it as natural as possible.
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are a no-go when it comes to naturescaping, instead natural or organic methods are preferred. Effect composting and worm farms make for sustainable fertilizers that not only reduce costs but your carbon footprint. Combination planting with wild garlic and marigolds is a more eco-friendly way to ward off pests.
Naturescaping for Aquatic life
If you have a pond frogs are a fantastic litmus test of how healthy the micro-climate is in your garden. Frogs need to be able to climb out the pond to avoid drowning. Lilies like Floating hearts (Nymphoides thunbergiana) and Cape blue water lily (Nymphaea nouchali Burm f. var. caerulea) make for great resting place for frogs.
Fish are brilliant at keeping mosquito populations down in fishponds or water features. Plant the orange river lily (Crinum bulbispermum) and Miniature papyrus (Cyperus prolifer) by/in the fishpond for the fish to hide in. Shrubs like the dogwood make for excellent nesting sites for red bishops and weaver birds.
Wild ducks are hard to impress, so a large body of water and a non-threatening environment is what is required. Dogs and children do not help, and the ducks will not nest if they get disturbed. A secluded island with nesting boxes should attract local ducks. Common indigenous ducks are the:
- Yellow-billed duck
- Fulvous Whistling duck
- Hottentot Teal
Gardening for Birdlife
Birds need three things: a water source, a food source and a safe nesting place to be content. The different types of birds like different plants depending on what they eat and their nesting habits. So rather than target all bird species, select the type of bird you would like to see in your garden.
The most important thing for owls is nesting boxes and owl-friendly rat poisons. The larger owl species like the spotted-eagle owl need large trees to roost in. Owls can kill up to 300 rodents a month.
Sunbirds need nectar-rich plants like the bloodroot, honey flower, erica species and aloe species. A sunbird’s favourite colour is red so most indigenous red plants will attract them to a sunbird garden. A sunbirds garden needs a nectar feeder but avoid putting red dyes in them as they cause cancer in birds. Rather use a natural beetroot dye.
Barbets, bulbuls, mousebirds, turacos and parrot all come to gardens with loads of fruit-baring trees. Regular fruit offerings in winter help get these birds through the harsh months. Indigenous fruit trees will also attract frugivorous bats.
The finchers, weavers, waxbills, whydahs and queleas all rely on seeds. Veld gardens with loads of grasses attract them. Weavers are known to nest above water and in thorny trees for extra protection. A seed station in the garden is essential.
Cuckoos, swallows, thrushes all rely on grubs, earth worm, grasshopper and caterpillars. So if you stop spraying pesticides and start planting trees that attract insects these birds will come.
Naturescaping for insects
Such is the circle of life - by creating an insect garden you are simultaneously attracting insect-eating birds to the garden. According to pollination syndrome plants have evolved to attract different insects to pollinate them.
Bug hotels are a popular with children and they also make a fantastic insect-eating bird feeder. Parktown prawns are incredibly valuable garden subjects as they are apex predators and consume snails and other unwanted critters. Creepy crawlies will attract insect-eating bird, bats and provide food for frogs.
Everyone should own a beehive! Unlike sunbirds, bees need pollen as well as nectar to survive. For an effective bee garden you need to plant blue and yellow indigenous, non-hyrbrisded flowers, with a symmetrical shape. Here is a fantastic selection of bee trees for a South African bee garden.
There are 801 known species of butterflies in South Africa. A misconception about butterfly gardens is that it’s not about the butterfly and the flowers - it’s about the caterpillar and the leaves. To attract butterflies you need to have trees that host the caterpillars. Butterflies also reply on flowers but a lot of species enjoy the juice from fallen fruits.
Plants that rely on moths for pollination, known as phalaenophily, are generally white and open at night, as moths are nocturnal. These flowers produce a lot of nectar and smell more in the evenings. An indigenous moon garden would be well suited to attracting moths. Like butterflies, moths rely on their host trees to feed and house their larva.
Naturescaping for Bats
South Africa has 56 species of bats, and like moths, nectarivorous bats also like white, or light-coloured, scented flowers with prolific nectar producing qualities. Bats rely on echolocation to find food, whether it is insects, fruits or large flowers. Bats have a brilliant memory and will return to the same feeding site and nesting place every night. This memory also means they return to the same bat box once they have urinated in it, so don’t forget to add a bat box to a secluded part of the garden.