Garden with nature, not against it.

With the rains finally arriving, our gardens have suddenly been transformed into an oasis of green and colour. With this change, the creatures and critters in our gardens also spring to life. These denizens are often misunderstood and unappreciated. However, they play an integral role in maintaining a natural, healthy equilibrium in our gardens.

When looking at nature, you will find that everything is in balance and sustainable. Nothing goes to waste and everything, no matter how big or small, contributes to the circle of life. We are currently living in the age of instant gratification where we want everything and we want it yesterday. On the other hand, Nature tends to take the long view with much better results. Shifting to the way Nature does things can be frightful for some but I tend to look at it as an amazing journey. Some of the benefits of encouraging wildlife to make a home in your garden are:

Benefits of wildlife

  • Wildlife are our main pollinators and without them life cannot even give you lemons to begin with. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from bats, small mammals and even flies to name but a few. When spraying your garden with chemicals you reduce the amount of these beneficial creatures. In some areas of the world humans now have to pollinate by hand because all the pollinators have died off from pollution and the abuse of agro-chemicals.

  • Predators and beneficial bacteria play an important role in combating insects that can become pests in our gardens. From the ninja like Praying Mantis to the bright and cheerful Ladybug, these predators feast on pests, thereby keeping their numbers in check. When using this approach one will always tolerate a small amount of pests as without them the predators would vanish. However, without predators, the numbers of pest in your garden will skyrocket.

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  • Even soil has living organisms toiling away. They improve our soil whilst making their home underground. The old method of annually tilling over soil and digging in compost has been shown to be extremely detrimental to the health of the soil. As soon as the microbes in the soil have been exposed to the harsh outside conditions they start dying off. It is far better to mulch our garden regularly. Earthworms are also one of the best workers in the soil and their presence is the best indicator of soil health.

  • Critters munching on a plant can even be beneficial to the plant. A great example of this is when the caterpillar of the Acraea horta butterfly, completely defoliates the Wild peach (Kiggaleria africana), only for the tree to shoot fresh leaves and grow at an exponential rate. This allows for improved growth of the tree and almost serves as a clean-up service for it.

  • The amount and diversity of the wildlife in your garden is the best indicator of your garden’s health. A garden devoid of wildlife will be unbalanced and prone to outbreaks of pests and diseases. Take the time to admire a beautiful butterfly or watch a caterpillar inch its way around.

    Bees don’t just make honey, they are also one of our main pollinators.

How to make your garden nature-friendly

  • Keep the spraying of chemicals as a last resort. Rather use companion planting or natural insecticides, which have less potential to harm the beneficial insects in the garden. Place bug houses in your garden. Even something as inconspicuous as a pile of twigs and sticks can be a home.

  • Practice no dig gardening by continuously adding fresh layers of mulch as soon as the previous layer has broken down.

  • Plant host plants for the species that you want to attract to the garden. Indigenous plants would be a great starting point as they provide for a whole host of wildlife.

  • Ensure that you always have fresh water available for bees and our feathered friends and whoever needs a sip of water. Try to place your watering hole in a secluded spot as this will help to attract any jumpy critters.

  • Take the long view and allow your garden to create its own natural equilibrium.

Once you have created your oasis you will be astounded by the amount of weird and wonderful creatures in your garden, each with their own role to play. Also have a peek on our Pinterest board for some useful and interesting tips on gardening with wildlife. Establishing a safe haven for wildlife is a great step towards living closer and together with nature.