By Reuben Dickison
Huge parks and nature reserves are great ways to preserve the environment for future generations. They make wonderful day trips and places to hike and enjoy natural beauty.
But with a small amount of work, anyone can make a small eco-sanctuary for their personal enjoyment, and for the benefit of wildlife and the environment.
To make your garden into a sanctuary you need to do some planning. Consider things that all living things need to survive and be healthy (usually everything that is removed to build a home or neighborhood.
Cover and seclusion – Their needs to be adequate bushes, trees, and shrubbery for birds to hide in to raise baby birds and to get protection from rain and sun. You may be able to lure birds and things to your garden by feeding them a tasty easy meal but they will not stay to make it home without.
Think small – unless you have hundreds of acres you are not creating for deer and large mammals, you are creating for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies, and bees. Your efforts even in a small areas can and do make a big difference to these creatures.
Water – a small water feature or pond is essential. All life depends on water. If there is not a ready supply of water it is a place to visit, not to live. More importantly, safe water is a major issue for small animals and insects. Otherwise they resort to puddles and ditches besides roadways laced with oil residuals and insecticides.
Balance – When you start to pick and choose what you want to support you are doing the same thing that humans have done for centuries that led to the demise of hundreds of living things. I have mentioned insects – if you want to have everything but insects then you are eliminating the major natural food source for frogs and birds. Without bees, the flowers and fauna cannot flourish. A natural sanctuary should be natural and balanced, not a selection of “just what I like”.
Considerations in Building
The easiest way to decide what to plant around the garden is by taking a walk in a real nature preserve in your area. Look for the flowers and fauna that appeal to you and then seek them out at a nursery or contact nature centers around the area to get specimens from their pruning around areas. Please do not go into a preserved area with a spade and just randomly dig- making your garden is not a good reason to spoil another natural area.
In the water feature, whether it is an artificial pond or a dug pond circulation is essential. Stagnant water quickly becomes an algae covered cesspool in the summer that cannot be used by anything but mosquito larvae. By adding circulation to the water you ensure that it is oxygenated enough to support the tadpoles and small amphibians that can naturally control the insects. Small water plants such as lilies do an excellent job of using the nitrogen rich nutrients that accumulate from wash off in the water to control algae growth. Most often some type of pump is used to maintain circulation since few are fortunate enough to have a natural spring or stream that does that job.
When pruning and weeding your goal is to prevent any one plant from overtaking all of the others, not to eradicate them. In a small area you will never get the diversity needed for natural checks and balances so instead trim, pluck, or prune as needed with the intent to preserve diversity instead of intent to eradicate some natural things.
Reuben Dickison writes on behalf of All Pond Solutions, suppliers of pond pumps, water feature accessories and eco-friendly accessories for aquatic wildlife.