Go Wild (in your garden)!

Go Wild (in your garden)!

With Spencer Shaw

If the extent of your interest in gardening is the perfect lawn and an immaculately pruned hedge (probably Mock Orange), then this article is probably not for you. That said, I aim for inclusiveness in my approach so bear with me and we’ll see if we can’t find some common ground and if not then hopefully some light entertainment.

Human beings are beings of nature, we enjoy interaction with the natural world. Although culturally some humans (unfortunately most) draw a line between humans and all the rest of life on earth, the fact remains that biologically and ecologically we are all part of life on earth. We’re inspired and in awe of areas of natural beauty, we enjoy watching other animals, we enjoy growing things, gardening & bushwalking. All these things make us happier, healthier and intrinsically content.

So, my thoughts naturally ramble in the direction of co-operation and sharing when it comes to the other life forms we are blessed to share this earth with. In our gardens, our green dominions, those areas that we can rule over with an iron fist (or at least an assorted blend of steel, alloy and plastic tools) and shape as is our whim into a series of monoculture, monotonous, monospecific, mediocre (and a legion of other words starting with m) manicured lawns and shrubs. These gardens, at best require constant intervention of labour, machine and chemical to maintain this level of morose mediocrity and at worst are functionally green deserts. We can do all this, or, we can get a little bit wild.

Getting a bit Wild in the garden, can take all sorts of forms, but the most crucial element is increasing the range of plants, in both species diversity and form. Ideally you would use as a great range of local native plants that reflect those that naturally occur in your area and provide food and resources for local wildlife. This unfortunately means sticking with local native plants of SE QLD and limits you to a mere 3500 native plant species…. although some could argue that’s a reasonable palette from which to select!

Other valuable elements to getting a little bit wild include: Mulch – use natural leaf litter, living mulches (groundcovers), rockpiles and logs; Question Your Chemical Use – insecticides & rodenticides may be useful short-term solutions to pest damage, but they are poisons that kill other wildlife and could end up in your food! Habitat – nest boxes, rocks, dead trees provide valuable homes.

The wilding of your garden is generous, creative and sharing. It reduces financial and physical inputs over time and the rewards, well they tweet for themselves!

Not all small furry creatures are rats! Don’t poison the wildlife.

Not all small furry creatures are rats! Don’t poison the wildlife.

with Spencer Shaw

Small furry creatures with sharp teeth, claws and beady little eyes get a lot of bad press in our culture, thanks to the feral rats that have followed us across the planet. However, we also have many native rodents and other small furry creatures that play important roles in our ecosystems.

The Bush Rat Rattus fuscipes can be found in our forests and heathlands and is a cute and timid – although they can still give you a nip when cornered! They feed on native fruits and seeds and help disperse native plants. Also found in our area are the amazing Antechinus.  Antechinus are not rodents at all but small carnivorous marsupials, high energy predators that have short life spans, especially the poor males, who live for 9 months before going out in a blaze of glory after exhausting all their energy in the mating season.

All our small mammals are prey for larger fauna, which brings me to the delicate issue of rodent control. Please consider carefully when deciding how to control those annoying little critters that are scratching in your ceiling. Many rat poisons, particularly the systemic poisons (they don’t just kill the rats but also the animals that eat the poisoned rats such as) are dangerous to other animals. Victims can include Owls, Tawny Frog Mouths, Carpet Snakes and Quolls to name a few. Snap Traps are brutal but effective with no chance of killing the predators listed above. If you think you might have Antechinus instead of introduced mice, use a Live Trap to catch them, then release outside. If however, you do have an Antechinus in your house and can tolerate them (they can stretch the friendship at times), you will never have a mouse or cockroach problem again!

So remember, next time you are jumping onto the table as a small furry creature scurries by, it may just be a friendly local and not necessarily a “dirty rat”!