Gardening for urban wildlife

Gardening for urban wildlife

“A piece of ground used for growing flowers, fruits or vegetables”.

A garden’s definition does no justice to its true nature. Watch the soil, there are critters creating tunnels. Look through the foliage, there are birds building nests. Listen intently, you can hear the fluttering of pollinating insects seeking nectar. A garden is a living, thriving ecosystem. Yet, in our pursuit of a germ-free and sanitised environment, we have pushed out local wildlife and made our gardens as sterile as their book definition.

Wildlife gardening is a not new concept. It is the way gardens were meant to be — flourishing habitats that provide food, water, shelter to urban wildlife like birds, butterflies, worms, small reptiles and mammals. Wildlife gardens are known to reverse some of the human-caused habitat damage that is decimating urban wildlife population, and they also keep our local ecosystems healthy.

Opening up our home to urban wildlife can initially seem intimidating. However, you don’t have to be adventurous right away. You can tailor your wildlife garden to suit your level of comfort. While some features of a wildlife garden may be more suitable for large gardens, with a bit of planning, even a small balcony or terrace can be more inclusive to urban wildlife.


Choose well

Choose your plants according to the light conditions of your balcony. Native or naturalised plants are more beneficial to local wildlife rather than cultivars that contain little or no pollen and nectar. Choose plants that flower through different seasons.


Conserve resources

You can also conserve water by using harvested rain water for watering plants and refilling the pond. By using mulch, especially in summer, you can reduce water use. Mulching and organic compost also provide a healthy habitat for earthworms that aerate and fertilise your soil.


Go organic

Using chemical fertilisers or pest control methods defeats the very purpose of having a wildlife garden. Use composted vegetable matter and organically produced fertilisers. Use bio-pesticides and allow beneficial insects such as ladybugs, praying mantises, green lacewings and beetles to control harmful pests.


Be open

You cannot have butterflies without caterpillars, you cannot have healthy soil without the slimy earthworms. House geckos and garden lizards actually keep your gardens clean. Learn to love creatures you are not accustomed to loving. Unfamiliar does not always equate to dangerous.


Live and let live

Millions of creatures live in coexistence with us, most of them do so without us noticing. It is natural for both non-venomous snakes like the keelback and rat snakes, and at times venomous snakes like the cobra and common krait to venture into your gardens. Be careful while tending your garden, especially after heavy rains. Don’t seek safety by eliminating such wildlife, seek trained help to handle such situations. Allowing urban wildlife into your gardens is much easier than you think, and most species bring with them a host of benefits. So, go on and welcome the little critters into your gardens!


Sustainable practices

Including all the essential elements discussed is only the first step towards creating a wildlife garden. Following holistic sustainable practices in the creation and maintenance of this garden will determine whether it provides resour­ces for local wildlife.

(The author is with Muddy Waters Creations)

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