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Your home heartland

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There are so many ways that you can improve your garden to give the native animals and plants a second chance at life. Here are some ideas.

With European’s arrival on Australian shores, came the animals and plants that they knew from home, bringing comfort but cause for concern. From hard hooved animals that trampled vegetation and compacted soil, and small fluffy pets that soon became pests, to plants that brought disease and vermin we’ve certainly done our fair share of damage. The native flora and fauna was now growing amongst foreign species, some which didn’t harmoniously integrate with indigenous ones. Today the building industry works hard to preserve as much of the native environment as possible, from ecological housing designs to green construction practices that include recycling materials and reducing noise pollution. But what can we do to improve our impact on the environment after a home is built to give Australian species second lease on life? 

Welcome to our first in our new series ‘Your Home Heartland’, where we uncover what you can do to give back to nature no matter the colour of your thumb.

Part one: all about aqua

Bird baths: 

Bird baths are the simplest way to include a splash of water into the garden and create a haven for wildlife. Australia is a dry continent – especially during warmer months – while we have access to a constant water supply, animals are not always so lucky. But we can change this with just one inclusion – a bird bath. 

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to picking the right one – who knew, right? So here are some useful tips and tricks to consider. 

Tip number one:

keep feathered friends free from foxes and cats. While more and more suburbs are being labelled as cat containment areas, there are still many roaming around and there isn’t much we can do about stopping foxes from living in their adopted environment. To protect birds against this make sure the base of the bird bath has a high pedestal.

Tip number two:

some larger birds are known to dominate smaller birds, ensuring that they don’t have access to the water. Overcome this problem by having a variety of bath options. Other bath types, including pots or hanging baths, giving the smaller birds a fighting chance. 

Tip number three:

try to position your bird bath near plants so they have a place of refuge and security if they need it.

Tip number four:

add small stones or rocks to the bottom of the bath. This will give birds somewhere to perch while they’re drinking. 

Also remember that just like us birds need water during winter and summer, but if you live in places like Canberra where frost and ice are synonymous with winter, you may need to go out and break the ice sitting on top of the bird bath.

Frog and fish ponds are another easy way include a water feature while enticing animals into the backyard. 

Both frog and fish ponds are easy to add to your garden with prefabricated frog pond moulds and ceramic fish pond pots. 

Frolicking frogs

Frog Ponds are as simple as digging a hole, placing the mould inside and create the surrounding habitat. When digging the hole choose a shady site to limit the amount of algae build up. Line the base of the pond with washed sand or gravel (ensure they aren’t chemically treated). Make sure the pond sits flush with the ground, the walls aren’t too steep, and is surrounded by pebbles and larger rocks that provides a porous surface, otherwise the frogs won’t be able to get out. Add your native plants and reeds, let them settle for a week then add the water and you are done. 

While some plants help to keep the pond clean you can use a pond pump help. Make sure that when installing it it’s covered with mesh to protect animals from any harm. 


Fish foundations

Fish ponds give you a bit more freedom when it comes to designing them because you don’t need to worry about how your fish are going to get out. The two options you have to consider is whether your pond is going to sit above the surface or flush with the ground. 

If you have outdoor pets or small children, having an above ground pond may be your safest option. It also requires no digging and it’s fast. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by creating a pond in a pot. Simply purchase a ceramic or plastic planter pot that has no drainage hole at the base (if it does you will need to cover it).

Fill it up with water and start adding your plants. A variety of different plants will offer the best visual set up. Go for erect plants such as Bulrush or floating plants such as Duckweed or Azolla. Using a pot as you pond allows you to seamlessly blend it in with other pots in your garden. 

However, if you choose for it to sit flush with the ground you may have a more exciting project on your hands. Landscaping is where the fun starts, choosing the size and design style for suited for the space. For simple and smaller ponds dig a hole to the size of your choosing, taking into account the fish you are planning to keep, and line with concrete spray, rubber liners or plastic tubs. Place bricks or large rocks around the outside for aesthetics and a practical way to keep the lining in place. Then install a pump and surround with plants.

For a more complex design follow the above steps allowing for a bigger pond space and consider finishing it with a small wooden bridge or concrete stepping blocks.   
And after all that work the final step is to add your fish.  


If you are still concerned about the safety of having any form of pond in your backyard you can always look to Damian Vick or Creative Pond Covers for inspiration on how to cover your pond without obstructing the beauty of it or access for wildlife. 

Photo courtesy Damian Vick, www.damianvick.com

If you elect to keep Koi fish in your pond you will need to include a cover similar to this (or a more creative option highlighted above) to protect them from predators.

Perfect pools

Swimming pools take up a large space on a property and are a great feature piece to a beautiful garden. 

Pool-friendly plants are a great addition, not only do they add some life to the backyard but they can also have the added benefit of providing an extra level of safety to the pool area. Your first consideration when looking for pool-friendly plants are ones that create minimal leaf litter – especially avoid ones that have thorns or seed pods. Some of the messier ones are gum trees, so make sure to plant them away from the pool. Instead elect for something like palm trees or large leaved shrubs. These plants also don’t produce pollen during spring, making them perfect all year round. You will also need to avoid plants with robust roots systems that can damage the exterior of the pool, plants such as bamboo and umbrella trees.

It’s important to remember that different plants are often suited to either saltwater based pools or chlorinated ones, not both. Chlorinated pools will need more robust plants like the ones mentioned above with large leaves. Plants such as aloe, cycads and bromeliads are best for saltwater. 

All pools should be surrounded by fencing to prevent children and animals from entering the area without supervision. Lining the outside of the fence ensures another layer of obstacles between them and the pool. Having the plants on the outside of the fence will also help to minimise the amount of plant debris landing in the water.  

But what if you pool is sitting there unused? Maybe something a bit different is what you are looking for. 

In 2017, the Ku-Ring-Gai Council created their Pool-to-Pond program. The program encourages people to turn their unused pools into the perfect backyard watering hole for wildlife. 

The transition a pool has to go through to be turned into a pond includes the following:

  • Converting the existing chlorinated/saltwater pool into one with natural freshwater. This is easily done by turning off the filter and adding aquatic plants that reduce bacteria build up.
  • Adding rocks and plants to the base of the pool on an upward slant. This serves the same purpose as rocks in frog ponds mentioned above – it helps to prevent animals getting stuck in the water.

 For more information on how to transition your pool into a pond or any questions you have on the process, visit www.kmc.nsw.gov.au 

Photo courtesy Ku-ring-gai Council
Photo courtesy Ku-ring-gai Council
Photo courtesy Ku-ring-gai Council
Photo courtesy Ku-ring-gai Council

The simple water feature 

Make your backyard a place of tranquillity – a haven of your own – during stressful times. 

‘The gentle trickling of water creates an instantly calm environment and a striking focal point for outdoor spaces,’ says TV personality and horticulturalist, Melissa King. ‘Water features can also passively cool their surrounds through the evaporation of water, which draws heat from the air.’