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Wildlife Gardens - and their role in natural pest control
There are lots of good reasons why we should have native plants growing. This little Scarlet Robin is one of the many small birds we find around our home in the hills.
Having native shrubs will help attract birds and provide habitat for small creatures like lizards, frogs,etc. These creatures shouldn't be underestimated in their role of pest control.
Shrubs also provide a great screen and windbreak for your vegie garden – most important when these really hot summer winds are at their strongest. They can also be used as a living fence to divide areas and offer privacy.
Some common native plants that are bird attracting include:
Kunzea , Melaleuca, Callistemon, Grevillea, Calothamnus, Hakea, Eremophila, - many of these are small (or can be kept clipped to between 1 – 3 metres) and also have low water requirements. Grevilleas with small yellowy/green flowers are among the best for attracting honey eaters. Ask at your local Garden Centre for advice. Native specialist nurseries like Zanthorrea have an extensive list of bird attracting plants available. It is always preferable to include local native species to provide food for local native animals.
Birdbaths are also useful in attracting birds – especially in summer when other sources of water may not be available to them. Remember to keep the bath topped up if you want them to visit regularly. Birds will only visit regularly if they know it is a reliable source of water. A semi-shaded position is best, and high enough to make sure other pets can’t access it. Dense shrubs alongside will give small birds a retreat.
Frogs and lizards will eat snails, slaters, termites, slugs and beetles, and don’t need anything really fancy for a habitat. Many Perth frogs don’t need permanent water (although they do like it ‘damp’) – they have evolved to breed just in the wet season when ponds are available. If you do have a pond, make sure it has something the frogs can climb out onto – it might sound crazy but some of our local native species aren’t very good swimmers! Some will even spend the summer months burrowed underground in damp sand – ready to emerge again once the rains come.
This little frog is the Clicking Froglet - a tiny frog that only grows to about 2cms! It makes a noise a bit like a cricket. It is a fairly common frog throughout the Perth/South West region.
If you build a pond and wish to attract frogs, often you don't need to do anything - they will usually find it as adults travel in search of breeding sites. If you are eager, there is a tadpole exchange operating on the Frogwatch website. It is requested that you don't transport tadpoles out of about a 2km radius from where they have hatched in order to avoid spreading disease.
Be careful using conventional snail baits and other poisons around your garden if you want frogs and lizards to thrive. They are highly sensitive to chemicals and easily absorb them through their skin.
Microbats (that rest in hollow logs, or sometimes man made structures) can eat hundreds of mosquitoes PER HOUR, as well as termites, lawn beetles and vegetable weevils. They are around Perth but they are creatures that come out at night, so many people are unaware of their existence. Groups around town hold bat box making workshops, or you can find plans available online to put one together yourself if you are keen to try and attract some to your own backyard.
The great thing about organic growing is working WITH nature, so it seems completely logical to me to encourage other species to enjoy your garden, too. (And hopefully – they’ll leave you SOME strawberries!!)
Until next time, have fun in the garden!