Spring is here once again, and it is time to start getting the backyard in shape for outdoor living. This year, why not create an ecosystem garden? It’s easy to do and requires less maintenance which means you’ll have more time to sit back, relax and enjoy your beautiful backyard retreat.
What is an ecosystem garden, you ask? An ecosystem garden is a garden that is designed to create a balanced system among living things such as plants, animals, organisms, and non-living things such as soil, sun, water, and air. In the ecosystem, each of these depend on each other for survival. These types of gardens not only look beautiful, but they also purify water and air, produce oxygen, enrich soil, control insects, and attract pollinators such as butterflies, birds and bees.
When designing your garden one of the first things you should do is figure out what type of wildlife you want to attract (or repel). Then do some research to find out what plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers are native to your local area. If you are not able to find this information online then contact your city. Most cities will provide valuable gardening tips, and some will even sell native plants at a reasonable price.
Native plants are best because they are non-invasive, adjust well to the local climate and soil, they do not need as much water or maintenance, they thrive in their natural soil and they provide homes and food for local birds, and wildlife.
Choose a variety of plants, flowers, and trees so you will have a habitat garden year-round. Also, make sure you do not plant any invasive plants as they will aggressively take over your garden.
Below is a list of plants that will attract pollinators such as butterflies, birds, and bees to your yard (Again, for best results make sure the plants are native to your local area):
Sage: A plant that attracts bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Aster: A perennial flowering plant that attracts many types of songbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Sumac: A shrub/small tree that attracts American Goldfinch American Robin Black-Capped Chickadee, bees, and butterflies.
Blackberries, bayberries, and honeysuckle: Attracts fruit-eating birds.
Black-eyed-Susan: Attracts butterflies, bees, chickadees, American goldfinches, and house finches.
Sunflowers: Birds eat the sunflower seeds as a fuel source and the flower’s bright colours attract bees and butterflies.
Crab Apple Trees: Attracts many types of bees and bird species like robins and cardinals.
Dogwood: Attracts woodpeckers, cardinals, bluebirds, bees, and butterflies.
Hollyhocks: A perennial flower that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Cardinal Flower: A flowering plant that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Providing a water source for animals and amphibians is another way to attract wildlife. Ponds attract species like birds and frogs, which can help control the insects. If ponds are not your thing, buy a birdbath, fill a large container with water, make a watering hole, create a stream, or install a water fountain.
Another thing you can do to attract wildlife is to add a lot of colours to your backyard like yellow, orange, pink and especially red as butterflies and hummingbirds attracted to it.
Hang a bird feeder and fill it will seed to attract birds. Make sure the feeder is in a quiet place just a short distance away from shrubs or trees, so birds feel safe from predators.
Add some woodchips or logs to your soil as it will provide a habitat for organisms, provide protection from over heated soils, requires less weeding and watering and adds nutrients to your soil.
Also consider composting as it will enrich the soil and will provide a lot of needed nutrients. Investing in a rain barrel to conserve water is a great idea too!
Although there are many benefits to having an ecosystem garden, one drawback is that wildlife may cause damage to your crops or plants so be sure to cover them with netting when necessary. Make sure the weave in the netting isn’t too tight as you still need to allow the pollinators to have access. Another option is to have a separate area for your personal garden away from the garden that attracts wildlife. And never use pesticides!
Ecosystem gardens are beautiful, and they create a connection not only between the environment and wildlife, but with you. By creating an ecosystem balance, you are helping the wildlife and the environment and in return, nature will provide you with a healthier environment and a gorgeous backyard retreat.