Gardening for the planet

Did you know that 2010 is the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity? If you did, you probably thought that the best way of promoting biodiversity was to protect pristine environments or replant the Big Scrub on your acreage. Nope – the best thing you can do is plant a garden.

Some of the greatest biodiversity in the world can be found in a well-tended, organically managed garden on a suburban block. Biodiversity isn’t just about large animals like orangutans and pandas. They are just the tip of the life pyramid. At the bottom is the huge majority of life on earth – bacteria, protozoans, moulds and so on. Next come plant life, then insects. Your garden is a haven for more different species than you can imagine.

If you don’t garden organically (or mainly organically), make a resolution to at least ban chemical fertilisers and rely instead on animal manures and compost etc. It is well known that nitrates kill off soil organisms, which are at the very bottom of the pyramid. Organic growers say “look after the soil and the plants will look after themselves”.

Think about planting more fruiting and flowering plants so that you will have something going every month of the year. This keeps your insect and bird population up, including all those helpful species that control pest insects. When you choose flowers, go for single blooms, rather than the ruffled doubles, which make it hard for insects and birds to collect nectar and pollen.

Install a rock retaining wall or a frog pond, make a heap of rough twigs down the back of your yard, plant a couple of spiky, dense shrubs for safe nest sites or plant a tree. Do any of these and your garden will be making an even greater contribution to the world’s biodiversity.


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