Low Down in Your Garden

By Spencer Shaw

When it comes to re-establishing native vegetation we tend to concentrate on the planting of trees and shrubs and if we’re lucky maybe a few Lomandra. But to truly re-establish a diverse ecosystem we must help establish all the groundcovers too such as grasses, herbs, small shrubs and ferns. Groundcover plants are crucial in providing a safe home for ground based animals such as skinks, frogs, snakes, bush rats, antechinus and of course a whole host of insects (don’t say yuk, think of them as Bird Food!) Groundcover plants are also crucial in providing the food resources such as seed, fruit, leaf and tubers to everything from birds, butterflies and beetles right through to wallabies and kangaroos(if you’ve got a really backyard).  Groundcover plantings can be very rewarding for you if you love your native fauna because they can be very rich in the resources they provide and in effect act like a magnet for native fauna in your area!

Planting native groundcovers in your own backyard (as well as trees and shrubs) is often even easier than in a big revegetation projects because the small plants are vulnerable to weed competition and your input with mulch and weeding can be vital in establishing native groundcovers.  Control of groundcover weeds is crucial while establishing native groundcovers, for example lawn grasses such as couch, carpet grass and kikuyu need to be eliminated and subject to ongoing control through blanket mulching and or weeding.  Once well established though, native groundcovers can outcompete and shade out the weeds.

The great thing about many groundcovers is that they are easy to grow yourself by either directly transplanting around your garden or establishing in pots to plant later. Plants such as Native Plumbago ( Plumbago zeylanica), Native Violets (Viola banksii), Pennyroyal (Mentha sp.), Creeping Beard Grass (Oplismenus spp.) and Pollia (Pollia crispata) are just a few of our local native groundcovers that you can propagate easily through cuttings & runners. Native Grasses such as Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), Barbed Wire Grass (Cymbopogon refractus), Native Sorghum (Sarga leiocladum) and Poa (Poa labilardieri) are easy to grow from seed or transplant as seedlings.  All the plants listed above are available through Forest Heart ecoNursery.

Our place is buzzing (or should that be tweeting) with a huge diversity of small birds at the moment including Red Brow Finch, New Holland Honey Eater, Golden Whistler, Red Backed fairy Wren, Lewin’s  Honey Eater, Whip Birds and many more. None of our plantings are much older than 11 years but the dense plantings of groundcovers and low shrubs near the house provide home and food for these little critters and so many more.