Chirping birds and colourful butterflies are the most welcome visitors to anyone with a garden. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they also help pollinate flowers, keep insects at bay, and help spread seeds. However, as cities grow larger, natural areas shrink leaving animals and birds bereft of their homes. If you have the luxury of owning a large outdoor space, the best way to design it is for it to reflect the natural landscape. Eco gardening can be explained as designing a garden as a natural landscape. Not only will this provide a welcoming place for animals and birds, it will also offer you a beautiful view from your home.
Natural landscapes are also easier to maintain than formal gardens. Instead of manicured lawns, you can go for gardens designed as natural landscapes featuring plants native to the landscape. Or opt for water features like lily ponds instead of ornate fountains. Eco gardening requires only the occasional trimming and cutting of weeds. Along with that, a garden designed as a natural landscape needs a few other incentives to attract birds and animals.
Animals and birds are naturally attracted to places where they find food. Bird feeders are a must have for every garden. Attract butterflies and birds by growing flowering plants that bloom throughout the year. Rose bushes, honeysuckle and lavender plants are known to draw birds and insects towards them. Fruit bushes are also good sources of food for birds and animals. Worms act as sources of proteins for birds. Grow a variety of plants to encourage the growth of these worms. When planning the layout for a naturally landscaped garden, grow plants in groups to encourage pollination and therefore fruit yields.
For birds to live in a garden they need a place to nest in. Depending where you are, plant a few tall trees with sturdy branches for birds to nest in. Creepers grown along walls are also great places for birds to roost and breed. Since natural landscapes do not need to be constantly manicured, leave the trimming and tidying of borders and shrubs till late winter or early spring. This way birds and insects have a secure place to spend the winter months.
To provide nesting sites for ladybugs stick vertical bundles of short drinking straws or cane. Birdhouses, as shown in the image above, can make even small balconies and terraces seem inviting to local bird species. These birdhouses were utilised for a nature-friendly project by Muda Home Design, interior landscape designers from Portugal.
One thing common to humans, animals and birds is that water is the anchor point for all settlements. Water can be provided through artificial ponds, bowls of water, fountains, bird baths etc. Birds and animals need water not only for drinking but also to bathe in. And they need it not only in the hot summer months, but also in winter when natural water sources may freeze.
If possible, provide heated water in the winter months. Insects like dragonflies also need shallow water to lay their eggs and reproduce. A shallow bowl filled with pebbles and covered halfway with water attracts butterflies seeking minerals. Along with providing water in a natural landscape it is also necessary to keep this water clean and constantly moving so as to deter mosquitoes from breeding in it. Water in birdbaths needs to be changed on a daily basis and the bowl cleaned with a stiff brush. Changing water in ponds is not realistically possible so introduce fish that eat mosquito larvae into these ponds.
To attract birds to your garden, provide areas where they can safely breed their young ones. A birdhouse is an effective solution to this end, and attracts not only birds but also squirrels. Bird nesting houses are available in a number of designs and sizes catering to different bird species. Leaving a few dead branches and trees act not only act as perches for birds, but can also be made into homes for birds after woodpeckers channel out cavities in the same.
While most plants grow slowly, others if left untended can quickly overtake a garden. These plants are called invasive plants. Keeping invasive plants at bay is important both for manicured formal gardens as well as natural landscapes. An example of invasive plants that can be found in many gardens is the flowering periwinkle. When dealing with invasive plants, the most important step is to correctly distinguish between invasive plants and normal plants. Also, some animal species are extremely territorial and threaten other animals, thus keeping them away. Feral cats are one such example of invasive animal species that need to be kept away from gardens designed as natural habitats.
There’s a fine line between growing a garden as a natural habitat and growing a jungle. Though a natural habitat does not need frequent trimming plants should not be allowed to overgrow their habitat. When designing a garden as a natural habitat, include plants and trees of varying heights. A good way to create a balanced garden is to grow the tallest trees towards the perimeter, and shorter plants as you come closer to the house. When grouping plants, it is always best to group plants in odd numbers and in clusters, rather than straight lines.
A natural habitat themed garden is constantly evolving. So don’t look for perfection at the very beginning. Design the garden in harmony with the site. An important aspect of eco gardening is to grow plants and trees native to the area instead of importing cuttings of non native plants. If you must have non native plants, restrict them to growing in pots near the house.
When a garden is designed as a natural habitat, it is essential for it to be sustainable and organic. Avoid chemical pesticides and insecticides in your natural habitat. Instead of chemical fertilizers, use only organic manure and compost to encourage plant growth.
For more gardening ideas and inspirations, you can go through this ideabook – Gorgeous garden ideas for modern homes.