Your garden is an ecosystem



What a pleasure it is to have wildlife visit your garden?! And an extra bonus when these visitors decide to make your garden their new home!


Not only is it pleasing on the eye to have birds, chameleons and all sorts of insects visit your garden; it’s important to realize the importance of wildlife when it comes to the health of our planet in whole.


Have you noticed that there’s fewer wildlife to be seen in our urban areas these days? Sadly, habitat loss – due to human action – is the number one cause of wildlife decline in general.

How can I help?

We can each choose to become stewards of our own land when we choose to give a little back to wildlife – by creating welcoming habitats for wildlife in our gardens (aka Ecosystem gardening)...no matter the size of your garden!


It’s exciting to realize that when each of us takes personal responsibility for the health of the wildlife on our property, we can personally improve the overall health of our planet.

But, to do this, we need to go back to basics and fully understand the meaning of the word “ecosystem”.

What is an ecosystem?

An ecosystem is all of the plants, insects, and wildlife (all of the living things) that interact with all of the physical non-living things (soil, water, air, sunlight) that together create the environment that produces the ecosystem services on which we as humans are totally dependent.


These ecosystem services include: purification of air and water, production of oxygen, preservation of soil, pollination, control of agricultural pests, provision of aesthetic beauty, and more.


Our gardens, when designed with biodiversity in mind, can contribute to these services, and protect indigenous plants and wildlife which play a vital role in creating these necessary services.

In the Ecosystem Garden:

~Plants are chosen, not as specimens or for their prettiness, but for the role that they play in the ecosystem and the benefits they provide to wildlife and the protection of ecosystem services and biodiversity.


~The choices we make on our properties can either be helpful or harmful to that ecosystem. The goal of Ecosystem Gardening is to make the choices that are most beneficial to wildlife and to conservation of natural resources.


These choices include recognition of the following areas:


Sustainable Landscaping

For the purpose of ecosystem gardening, this includes:


~ reducing or eliminating the consumption of fossil fuels,

~reducing the need for irrigation,

~managing rain water where it falls,

~using local and recycled materials,

~eliminating the use of chemical toxins (fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides),

~reducing soil erosion,

~managing leaves and other plant debris on-site,

~and choosing locally appropriate materials.


Soil Health and Conservation

Many times our standard practices in the garden destroy valuable topsoil - either by removal or compaction. Topsoil erosion is a serious problem and many times the pesticides and fertilizers we use unfortunately also kill the organisms that keep the soil healthy and productive.


There is an old gardening saying that states “feed the soil, not the plants”, and “Healthy soil = Healthy plants”.


One of the best ways to create healthy soil is to leave those autumn leaves in your garden. Spread them through your garden beds and let nature do its thing, breaking down those leaves, adding organic matter to your soil, and making your plants happy. Plus, you’re keeping more waste out of landfills!


Water Conservation in the ecosystem garden

We all realize that fresh, clean water need to be protected and the use of it should be limited, so the unnecessary use of it in a water thirsty garden is not a sustainable practice.

Instead stormwater can be collected or directed to your garden, keeping it out of municipal stormwater systems, which prevents streambank erosion, protects our waterways, and reduces the amount of toxic chemicals that are picked up as the water makes its way into our watersheds.

Also remember that when you choose indigenous plants for the right conditions in your wildlife garden, and put them in the right place for their needs, it is very unlikely that you will ne


ed to provide supplemental watering once it’s established.


*Some popular water wise winners:

https://www.capegardencentre.com/single-post/2020/01/29/water-wise-winners


*To view our curated list of water wise plants on our online shop, click here:

https://www.capegardenonline.co.za/collections/water-smart



Indigenous plants in the wildlife garden

Did you know that many indigenous insects are specialists whose lives are dependent on one or a very few species of indigenous plants?


Another fact to consider when it comes to plant choices for your garden is that non-indigenous / invasive plants have the tendency to out-compete indigenous plants for water and space and are overwhelming and shutting out our indigenous plants.


Thus, the more locally indigenous plants you have in your garden, the more wildlife you will attract and have in your garden.

Not to say that you should only have indigenous plants in your garden: when you add more indigenous options to the mix of plants in our gardens, you will attract more wildlife.


Just keep in mind that when one practice ecosystem gardening, the main reason you garden is to create habitats for wildlife, and every choice that one make in your garden is made with the needs of wildlife as a top priority.


Thus, the individual “specimens” of plants scattered through a garden should not be your main focus, but rather the birds, butterflies, bees, insects, frogs, and other wildlife who make their home in your garden.

Your garden is beautiful because it’s full of life, and the plants are only a vehicle to that end.



As habitat loss is the number one cause of declining wildlife populations, we have simply left no place for wildlife to go. But each of us can make a difference by doing just one thing for wildlife in our own gardens:


~So to that end, one indigenous plant in your own garden is good.

~Three of that same plant is better.

~A garden full of a wide variety of many different types of indigenous plants that provide for wildlife year-round is best.


This will help to preserve the biodiversity of each of our local regions. Each of us can choose at what level we will contribute to protecting against the loss of biodiversity in our gardens.


*To view our curated list of indigenous plants on our online shop, click here:

https://www.capegardenonline.co.za/collections/indigenous-garden


The Power of taking the First Step:

If every one of us did just one positive thing for wildlife in our gardens, the cumulative effect would be enormous!


But, where do I start?

~Learn what plants are indigenous to your specific region

~Which plants are invasive and should not be planted in your area

~What plants will provide for the largest number of wildlife

~Learn about good, organic soil practices



*To view our curated list of plants that attract wildlife to the garden on our online shop, click here:

https://www.capegardenonline.co.za/collections/attracts-wildlife


Once we realize that there are consequences to each

choice that we make in our gardens (consequences that

extend to our local area, our region, and even much wider than that), we learn to stop doing the things that negatively impact our environment and start making better choices for the environment, for wildlife, and preservation of biodiversity – a contribution to a healthier place for all of us to live.



Each of us CAN make a difference by doing just one thing for wildlife.

What will this one thing be in your own garden?



*Be sure to check out our other blog posts related to this subject:


~Attracting chameleons to the garden:

https://www.capegardencentre.com/single-post/where-have-all-the-chameleons-gone-and-how-can-i-attract-them-back-to-my-garden


~Create a bird garden:

https://www.capegardencentre.com/single-post/create-a-bird-garden




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