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Bringing the natural world home

Over the last 100 years or so we’re shifted – literally – from being a farm based society to a service based society with a huge movement of people from rural areas and country towns to major urban areas symbolised by large cities like Newcastle.

Examples of this shift are evident in how Sydney’s west has gobbled up prime agricultural land – orchards and market garden areas.

A consequence of this internal migration has been what many demographers describe as a massive disconnect from our sources of sustenance and survival.  It’s not uncommon for people to not know where their food comes from other than out of a bottle, can or packet to be found on a shelf in an air-conditioned retail store. Perpetuating this disconnection is unhealthy whichever way you look at it.

As we attempt to reconnect with where our food is produced by purchasing at farmers markets, it seems only natural to take the next step and to reconnect with nature even closer to home – in the humble backyard.

This is the subject of a delightful story by Robin Powell, Wildlife Love a Touch of Jungle (SMH Jan 18, 2019)

“In the 1970s Australians … shared the planet with 60 per cent more animals than we do in 2019,” writes Powell. “The massive wildlife massacre of the past few decades, detailed in a major study produced by the World Wildlife Fund in late 2018, is largely a function of disappearing habitat as roads slice up wilderness and housing blocks follow. The scientists who tallied up the missing mammals, birds, fish and reptiles didn’t get around to insects, but their population decline is evident in everything from lower pollination rates to cleaner windscreens on summer holiday drives.”

When we “consider our wellbeing [as being somehow] disconnected from the wellbeing of the ecosystem on which we depend for air, water and well everything” really, where does that leave us?

“What might a humble backyard gardener do about it?”

Says Powell: “AB Bishop, horticulturist, landscape designer and garden writer, has an answer – the habitat garden – and her book, Habitat, is an impassioned, warm and witty how-to for bringing life back into the garden.”

Here’s the bottom line, “Bishop …  believes that protecting wildlife should be a fundamental drive of the gardens we create, wherever we live … A habitat garden, she writes, is less work than a manicured garden, because life likes the whole life cycle, not just the pretty bits. Untidy fallen twigs and leaves, dead branches, flowering weeds in the “lawn” and decaying stuff in the shrubbery all feed the soil micro-organisms and thousands of insect species that are at the bottom of the food chain. Bishop explains how gardeners can attract earthworms and insects, frogs and reptiles, birds and other animals by understanding the backyard ecosystem and choosing plants that provide food and habitat for a wide range of life.”

To give this story local relevance, it might be an idea to consider including some of the native flora displayed on the Gallery page into your garden landscape.  Lawn and border options could include: Nara native turf  Zoysia macranthra (picture at left), Kangaroo grass Themeda triandra, Weeping grass Microleana stipoides  Queensland blue grass Dichanthium sericeum, along with ground covers like Hibbertia, Grevillea, Casuarina glauca cousin it and native Geranium. This is just a small selection of the potential species and varieties available. Creating these life-support habitats for native wildlife bridges the gap between human society and animal ecology with far reaching benefits that can span generations.

To read the full story go to:  How the humble backyard garden can counter massive massacre of wildlife