Creating a wildlife-friendly backyard is much easier than you think. A few simple additions will provide food, water and shelter to a variety of wildlife. There are many benefits to a wildlife-friendly backyard, not only can you help the conservation of local wildlife and native plants, but you can also reduce garden maintenance and create a place of interest and beauty.
Wildlife-friendly backyard concepts can be applied to all types of garden, even small spaces like verandas.
There are some key concepts to consider when designing your wildlife-friendly backyard:
Local native plants will provide food and shelter for many wildlife species. Ideally you should select plants that will grow to a variety of heights, such as groundcovers, shrubs, and trees. Also try and select plants that will flower and fruit at different times so that there is a food source such as nectar or pollen throughout the year.
When choosing what plants to buy, it is important to consider:
- Local growing conditions. What is the soil type? How wet or dry is the area? Is it in shade or full sun? A good idea is to talk to your local nursery when purchasing plants.
Also consider what wildlife you want to attract to your yard. For example:
- prickly bushes will provide shelter for small birds
- native grasses will provide food for birds like finches
- some plants provide food for butterfly species such as the vulnerable Richmond Birdwing. For more information see the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network.
- clumping plants such as Lomandra and dianellas provide ideal habitat for small frogs near a pond
- replacing parts of your lawn with groundcovers will not only reduce mowing but also provide habitat for small lizards, insects etc.
Many native plants can be grown in pots so it is possible to create a habitat in any space, even a veranda. Again consider plant species that will provide a variety of heights and fruit or flowers year round.
For ideas see Easy Patio and Balcony Plants by Australian Backyard Wildlife and Habitat Garden in a Pot from Living Smart QLD.
Frog and Fish Pond
A great addition to any backyard is a pond that will attract frogs and allow them to breed. This is especially great for children to watch and learn about the amphibian metamorphic process.
It is quite easy to create an area for frogs. You first of all need to choose an appropriate location. It should be mostly in shade, and where there is no chance for water to run into the pond (which may carry chemicals).
You can dig a pond into the ground or use a readymade container that is clean, with no sharp edges or that will leach pollutants into water.
You will need to provide a way for the baby frogs to leave the water, such as rocks, twigs, or overhanging vegetation. Also consider the area surrounding the pond - is it bare or does it provide shelter for baby frogs?
Vegetation that emerges from the water will also attract dragonflies, a beautiful accessory to your pond.
For more instructions on how to create a frog pond please see Attracting frogs to your garden by DEHP, Frog friendly gardens by the Queensland Museum, and Frogs in Your Garden by the Queensland Frog Society Inc.
For native plants for frog ponds, see Native Plants Suitable for Frog Ponds by Living Smart QLD and It makes good sense to plant native water plants in your garden pond! by Australian Backyard Wildlife.
Native fish are also a great addition to any pond. They feed on mosquito larvae and will not harm tadpoles. Species to look for are Pacific Blue Eyes, Firetail Gudgeons, or Crimson-spotted Rainbow Fish. Talk to your local pet store or nursery, or contact Council to ask about our free native fish program. For more information on native fish in Logan, see the ANGFA factsheet (PDF 364 KB).
Birds enjoy having water to bathe in, and putting a bird bath in your garden is probably one of the easiest things to do. It can be very enjoyable to watch birds bathing, and see just how many different species use your garden.
All you need is a shallow container with no sharp edges or that will leach pollutants into the water. It should be steady, easy to clean, with sloping sides, and roughly textured so that birds can grip easily. You can buy a ready made birdbath or use something simple like a ceramic dish - if it is slippery place a stone in the middle.
You should place the birdbath in the open, but near some vegetation so that birds will feel safe from predators. Adding height to your birdbath will help with this. Also try to avoid placing it in full sun as this may cause slimy algal growth.
You should make sure the water is clean, and ideally change the water daily and clean the birdbath to get rid of any algae and stop the spread of disease amongst the birds using it.
For more information on attracting birds to your garden, see Creating Places for Birds by Birds in Backyards.
Many native species use tree hollows for nesting. However there are very few natural tree hollows due to land clearing and the loss of mature trees, especially in urban and peri-urban areas. A few well-placed nest boxes in your garden will be of enormous benefit to local wildlife such as parrots, owls, possums and gliders. A possum box will even keep a possum out of your roof!
You can purchase pre-made nestboxes at Hollow Log Homes or Nest Boxes Australia.
If you are feeling creative and have a spare hour or so you can make your own. Ipswich City Council has instructions to make a variety of Habitat Nest Boxes.
If you plan on installing nestboxes you need to be prepared to monitor and maintain them to ensure that they aren’t invaded by feral animals such as European Honey Bees and Indian Myna birds. Tips on installing, monitoring and maintaining nestboxes can be found at Hollow Log Homes.
Places for Reptiles
Lizards and snakes are nature's pest control officers - they keep numbers of insects and rodents down, and in turn provide a food source to other wildlife such as birds.
A hidden corner of your yard is ideal to provide a spot for hiding and sunbaking. Some ideas are:
- mulch/garden waste and leaf litter
- old timber or branches
- unused terracotta plant pots
- pile of rocks - flat stones are ideal for sunbaking
- old concrete or ceramic pipes
If you are worried about snakes in your yard see DEHP's website on the importance of snakes for some great tips on how we can learn to live safely with snakes.
Mulch is beneficial to your garden as it retains water and also discourages weed growth. It is important to never remove fallen branches, leaf litter, etc. from natural areas for use in your garden. Not only is there a risk of disease or pest spread (such as fire ants or myrtle rust), you are removing habitat for other wildlife.
Tree removal companies or arborists may be able to provide logs or branches for your garden. Contact your local garden centre for mulch.
One of the most important things to consider when designing your wildlife-friendly backyard is whether or not wildlife can actually get in and out! Fences can be built to suit particular wildlife, such as kangaroos or koalas.
For more details on building fences for koalas see the Koala Safety Fencing and Measures Guideline from DEHP.
For general wildlife fencing see the Wildlife Friendly Fencing Project.
If you have pets, such as dogs, you may wish to consider fencing a portion of your yard with wildlife-exclusion fencing to provide an area for your pet to roam freely without the risk of them harming native wildlife. Alternatively you could den or restrain your dog at night and keep your cat inside to prevent them from harming native animals.
Some other considerations
Many gardens in Australia unknowingly have plants that are serious weeds. It is important to identify and remove these plants, as weeds have serious impacts on biodiversity, agriculture, and human livelihoods.
For common garden weeds in Logan, contact Council to request a copy of Council's Weeds of Logan booklet.
For a broader selection of garden escapees of South East Queensland please see How to Identify Weeds from the Queensland Government.
To find native plants to replace weeds with, please see Grow Me Instead.
Use of chemicals
It is important to reduce or remove the use of chemicals in your garden, as these can have negative impacts on wildlife. There are many alternatives to chemicals that are used to control weeds and pests. For ideas see Organic Pest Control by Green Harvest and Chemical Free Gardening by Backyard Buddies.
Responsible Pet Ownership
Dogs and cats can kill, injure, or harass native wildlife that might visit your backyard. For tips on what you can do to keep both your pets and wildlife happy see Responsible Pet Ownership from Living Smart QLD.
For information and great ideas for dog owners, see the following factsheets from the RSPCA Animal Training and Behaviour Centre:
- Chasing Wildlife (PDF 267 KB)
- Denning (PDF 242 KB)
- Entertaining Your Dog (PDF 1160 KB)
- Treat Dispensing Toys (PDF 680 KB)
- Kongs (PDF 1050 KB)
Backyard pools can become a drowning hazard for many of our native wildlife such as koalas, snakes and even some birds. Often many of these animals can swim however quickly tire out and drown if they can't find a way out of the pool. Ways to combat this include:
- Use a pool cover that is tight, secure and will not sink.
- Install a fence which keeps most animals out of the pool area.
- Install a rope. Attach one end of a thick rope (5 cm in diameter and 2 m long—marine rope is ideal) to a float (like an empty milk bottle) in the pool and tie the other end securely to a tree, post or fence, thereby providing animals something to help them climb out of the pool.
- Put a stick in the water filter intake area which allows animals that get sucked into this area a way of climbing out.