A garden is our way of bringing a small piece of nature home and making it our own sanctuary. It is also a great way to give back to nature by supporting the natural local ecosystem with opportunities to make it sustainable.
An ecosystem is made of both living and non-living elements and how they interact with each other to generate continuity. From the smallest bacteria to the biggest tree, each living being has a role to play and contributes to the world around it in life and even after death. In nature, this balance is automatically taken care of while your backyard may need a little bit of help from you.
Ecosystems are sustained by the continual flow of energy which originates from the sun and flows throw through non-living elements like the atmosphere, air and soil and living elements which take on the roles of producing, consuming and decomposing it. When aligning your garden to support the local ecosystem, you need to ensure all of these elements are available in abundance. This really isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Nature has been doing it for thousands of years – you only need to create the right environment for it to take over. Here are some handy gardening tips:
Each location has its own weather and soil which naturally tends to support the sustenance of a particular type of ecosystem. Local plants play an important role here. They are acclimatized to the climate swings and temperature changes and can adapt to survive. Over the years, these plants develop a greater resistance to bug attacks and can form a base to help other organisms thrive.
Although it is tempting to bring in plants that look beautiful, chances are they may lack the survival capability. In other cases, they may need extra care and attention (read interventions) from you which will prevent the natural garden habitat from becoming sustainable. Redefine your sense of beauty and you will find it in all nature around you – the wildflowers, the lush foliage and the smell of wet earth during the spring monsoon. Roses, Mock Lime, Orange-Jessamine and Sweet Osmanthus fill the eyes with colour and air with heady scents. These local favourites thrive in the tropical climate that makes them a great addition to your garden. Gum trees, Camellia, and Azalea add a lovely dash of lush green and royal pinks in a variety of shades that when your garden is in bloom, it’ll put a color palette to shame.
Water forms the lifeline base of a thriving garden ecosystem. It attracts not just fish but the algae, bacteria and plankton underneath, the lotus plants on the surface, the frogs and insects around, the birds, small animals and garden wildlife that make it their life source.
Your pond will need some help from nature to get a kick-start. While rainwater can add the freshness, source out ‘live’ water from a natural pond and add a few buckets of it to your pond. This will seed the microorganisms that will find a fresh environment to multiply. Introduce local fishes that double up the job of keeping the water clean while increasing the oxygen. Add locally available planktons and tall water grass that can provide a comfortable hiding place for the ponds inhabitants. Good water sources are quickly discovered by birds and small mammals that will soon start visiting your pond. Some of them will act as natural pollinators for your garden soon getting it into full bloom.
While you want to create a natural ecosystem around your pond, you can’t leave it completely untended. Gardening tips for backyard ponds warrant periodic maintenance so that algae do not run over and the pond doesn’t end up attracting the wrong type of animals. If you change 20-40% of the water every two to four weeks, it should solve most of your problems. It is added work but it is worth it!
A wild garden will need to remain in its boundaries so that it doesn’t attract the wrong kind of attention or the really wild kind. The Chinese Privet is widely used as a hedge plant locally. It has the propensity to quickly grow and take over the space with its lush foliage that adds privacy and boundary.
You can grow the hedge plants in a way to minimize the entrance area, reducing access to some animals. In some areas where the garden is adjacent to a forest area, you can also grow a thorny hedge like berberis, hawthorn or blackthorn to keep intruders at bay. Hedgerows also serve as a safe home for many small creatures, and remain one of best ways to boost the local ecosystem.
This sweet and simple example is by German-based Gregor Design.
Life begins with earth only to return to it one day, completing the cycle. Taking all the dead and fallen leaves from your garden and creating compost out of them is an amazing way to maintain your backyard garden. In nature, this process happens on its own without interference creating a highly fertile forest soil. Your garden may need a little helping hand there.
Indoor compost bins are widely available in the market and make for a quick and clean solution. The bins are layered with breakdown aiding bacteria. The resulting brew in the composting process is extremely fertile and can be diluted and used on plants for wondrous growth. Or you could create a compost pile in a corner and let nature take its course. In both cases, small dead animals, leaves and plants will find their way to the earth and re-grow in your garden as a wildflower.
A manicured lawn has its charm but a wild garden with its natural buzz is a whole different beauty. Encourage the growth of plants as they bend to catch the light and bow to the wind. It aids the garden ecosystem to create its own path and saves you time and effort that you would have otherwise spent beautifying the space.
Not all of your garden will sleep through the night. Nocturnal insects and animals are vital contributors to our ecosystem. Most won’t venture out if they feel threatened by human presence so keep your distance from the garden during night-time. Dim the garden fence lights and music to tone down the intrusion.
If you have a beautiful natural garden, all you need is a good cup of tea to watch nature at play and observe life’s wonderful little mysteries. As they say, being one with nature simply makes you a better person.
Want some more green tips for your garden? Don't miss our Create an ecological garden for your home ideabook!