Six tips to boost biodiversity in your backyard

Heard about the biodiversity crisis and looking for a way to help? Here are six tips to boost biodiversity in your backyard.

These are easy and rewarding things you can do to make sure your slice of paradise is working overtime to add ecological value to your neighbourhood.

Don’t have a backyard? Lots of these ideas are applicable to balcony gardens, or perhaps you could adopt a verge near you.

1. Plant locally native species

It’s estimated that 40 percent of the world’s plants are threatened with extinction, driven by climate change and habitat loss – so one of the best things you can do is choose local! You can have a garden that works with your climate without compromising on style by using resilient local native plants.

An Eastern Spinebill perches on a flowering grevillea plant.

Grow local, support local.

Local native plants have evolved to conditions in your area, such as soil type, temperatures and rainfall. They are also ideally suited to provide food and habitat for local native wildlife! Not sure where to start? Try your local council or natural resources agency for planting guides. Visiting a local reserve with remnant bushland is a great place to get ideas too.

2. Create layers of habitat

Aim for variety in the sizes and forms of the plants you’re growing, because that increases the variety of species that can benefit from them. Plant grasses, groundcovers and climbers as well as trees and shrubs, so you’re creating upper, middle and lower layers of vegetation – a living native plant lasagne!

Potted native grasses can be seen in the foreground, ready for planting. In the background, a man with a wheelbarrow has just emptied a load of mulch onto the ground.

Adding understorey species like native grasses to your backyard creates habitat at a whole new level. Photo: Jesse Collins.

3. Provide food, water and shelter

Support biodiversity in your backyard by growing native flowers, grasses and shrubs that provide food for wildlife. Big flowers like grevilleas attract larger nectar-feeding birds, while tiny flowers like everlasting daisies bring in beneficial native bees and pollinators. Plants that produce seeds and berries attract smaller woodland birds and lizards.

Most living things also need water – and especially during hot and dry extremes. You can help by installing birdbaths, ponds, or fountains for birds, insects, and other wildlife. Just don’t forget to leave a ‘ladder’ so they can get out if they fall in. A piece of branch or some stones can do the job.

A Blue-tongue Lizard is floating in a pond, surrounded by the pads of waterlilies.

Providing a water source supports lots of species, like this Blue-tongue Lizard enjoying a bath. These lizards are your backyard bestie because they love to eat snails!

Watering your garden during hot spells also helps keep plants happy, which in turn provides cool shade for other species to enjoy.

You can create shelter for smaller birds to hide from bigger bullies or birds of prey by planting dense and prickly bushes. Adding some rocks and logs creates great places for lizards to bask and insects to shelter.

A Striated Thornbill perches on a stem of prickly native wattle.

Smaller woodland birds like this Striated Thornbill find shelter in dense prickly shrubs. Photo: Jennifer Goldsworthy.

4. Install pre-fab homes

If you live in the suburbs, there’s likely a shortage of hollows and other such homes for wildlife in your area. Different species need different sizes and configurations of housing too. Consider helping ease the housing crisis by installing pre-fab homes, such as nesting boxes, native bee hotels and other such shelters.

In a forest, a man and a woman are crouching on the ground, holding a white nestbox with a triangular opening, designed for Greater Gliders.

Some research is involved as homes for wildlife often need to be customised to the intended occupants – like this nest box for Greater Gliders. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

5. Reduce lawn area

Hear us out on this. The difficulty is that uniform, weed-free, closely-cut lawns provide very little ecological value, and maintaining them consumes a lot of resources.

So if you want to promote biodiversity in your backyard, how much lawn do you really need and use? Could you let your local park or community green space be your lawn instead? Consider reducing (or altogether removing) the lawn in your yard in favour of growing native plants. Plus, that means less time spent mowing!

People are sitting relaxing on a public lawn in the foreground, with their backs to the camera, looking towards a city full of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings in the background.

Could you use lawns maintained for the public, and grow native plants at your place instead?

6. Remove environmental weeds and known invasive plants

Invasive species crowd out local native plants, competing for resources, reducing food and habitat resources for local native wildlife, and subsequently threatening the balance of entire ecosystems. Show them who’s boss!

Get to know which plants are known environmental weeds or garden escapees in your area, remove them from your patch and replace them with natives. Keep a watchful eye out for new baby space invaders brought in by birds or windblown seeds. Mulching can help reduce this.

A woman wearing gloves adjusts mulch around a native seedling that has just been planted.

Replacing invasive species with natives, reducing weed competition and mulching will all help boost biodiversity in your backyard.

Once you’ve got these tips covered, celebrate! Enjoy chilling out among the biodiversity in your backyard, surrounded by the wonderful variety of plants and animals you’ve helped support. Why not invite some friends to see what you’ve achieved and encourage them to be a biodiversity champion like you?
Through our Nature in Cities initiative, Greening Australia is restoring urban habitat and its benefits to people in cities and suburbs. We envision a biodiverse, climate resilient network of gardens, parks, schools and waterways where communities connect with nature and engage in helping it thrive.

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