Make Habitat Gardening Feel Simple

Sometimes creating a habitat garden can feel overwhelming! It doesn’t need to be though, and you can start with simple steps that can eventually add up to a valuable habitat. To help you with the task, we’ve put some of our favourite tips together here. If you’re building a garden without blowing your budget we haven’t forgotten you, we’ve included some suggestions at the end of this article. 

This is the second blog in a series adapted from our ‘month of habitat gardening’. You can read our last piece here. 

Build on what you already have
You don’t need to completely start from scratch to provide wildlife habitat - add to your garden before you take away. It’s worth remembering that sometimes non-native plants, especially established trees, are an important component in your backyard. Keep an eye on things and see what gets used and don't just go ripping everything out. If you do keep some non-native plants, check to make sure they are not classed as environmental weeds in your area. Do this by searching ‘[your state] weed index’ online, and have a look at your state or territory government website.  

Create layers in your garden 
Simplified habitat structure (like lawn with a few trees) doesn’t provide the variety of food and shelter that small birds in particular need. Simplified habitats can also attract more aggressive species. Layers created by ground covers, grasses, and shrubs of varying sizes provides lots of different foods and shelter sites for small birds. Shrubs and groundcovers can support a whole range of species with flowers, fruits and seeds that occur throughout the year. Choose shrubs that are local to your area, and pair plants that flower at different seasons.  

Go locally native if you can 
Australia is a big place - our climate varies drastically across the continent, from the arid centre to the lush tropics of the north – and everything in between. So it’s no surprise that plants that are local to one area might not naturally occur in another. If you choose locally native, or indigenous, plants for your garden they will provide the best food and shelter for the birds that occur in your area. As a bonus, local plants are more tolerant to your climate so can take less effort to look after. Often if you check out your local council's website they will have a plant list - and may even have a nursery to help you stock up. 

Leave rocks, branches and leaf litter 
It’s not always about attracting birds directly. These are key features for attracting reptiles and creepy crawlies to your yard - things that many of our birds like to eat. Rocks and fallen branches provide great shelter, and decaying logs and leaf litter are both shelter and food! Next time you're tidying up your outdoor space, leave a few piles of rocks and leaves in place.  


The best ways to get bang for your buck  

Landscaping a yard can be an expensive endeavour. But it doesn’t need to be. There are a few ways you can save money and establish a bird-friendly garden at the same time. We have put together some tips to help you achieve your gardening goals whilst saving some money: 
Start small 
Don’t think you have to plant out your entire garden in one weekend. Start with a small patch of your garden and plant it densely rather than spreading a few plants over a large area. 
They may look small, but tubestock are considerably cheaper than larger plants, and will grow quickly and often establish better quality root systems than larger and more expensive plants. 
Go local 
Plants that are locally native to your area will be more likely to thrive in your area, and so require less attention, fertilizers and chemicals - all saving you costs. 
Get it right the first time 
Do your research before you buy – know the characteristics of your garden and find out about the types of plants suitable to the climate and soil you have. 
Propagating plants from cuttings and seeds can be free (and addictive). Native succulents are the easiest for beginners, then move on to cuttings from any local natives that are thriving in your garden (or your neighbours, with permission). If growing from seed, remember that Aussie natives have a variety of germinating conditions- some need heat while others may be happy to be sown directly. 
Your garden can make wonderful use of scraps lying around your house and yard – that old plant saucer could be an instant bird bath, old timber or tires can be garden beds. 

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