Tips that will allow you to begin creating a backyard ecosystem

One of the questions I’ve pondered often upon is ‘How do we sustain our interest towards nature?’ The most interesting answer to that would be to start at home by creating a backyard that is friendly to a variety of plants and creatures ranging from birds to insects.

When we think of a garden, the pretty picture is usually that of a lawn dotted with palm trees and exotic plants. This hardly does any good to nature.

There are plenty of native plants that could be grown in our garden. These will gradually form an ecosystem around our house because the place we live in and the surrounding areas were once part of a natural landscape.

Here are four tips that will allow you to begin creating a backyard ecosystem:

PLANTS: Growing trees like neem, banana and drumstick in our backyard will host a variety of creatures. Initially insects are attracted to these plants. They in turn attract birds and garden lizards. Bats come to the banana tree for its flowers and fruits. Shrubs like hibiscus attract butterflies and ants. They are also ideal for species like the tailorbird to build its nest.

WATER FOR BIRDS: These are a few basics steps for a birdbath. The best choice of bowl is terracotta.

A big shallow trough would be ideal, as it will provide space for many birds to wallow in it. It should be kept in a shady place (preferably below a tree or a shrub) and refilled regularly.

TREASURING LEAF LITTER: Most often we consider dry leaves that fall in our garden as waste to be swept up and thrown away. But dry leaves (also called leaf litter) are extremely crucial for our backyard.

Leaf litter enriches the soil by hosting termites and fungi. These leaves are also home to lots of tiny insects and frogs during the rainy season. Leaf litter becomes a vital part of the food web in our backyard.

SHELTER FOR BIRDS: While a nest box could never replace a bird’s natural home, it could provide a temporary shelter especially when it is kept in a flourishing backyard.

The size of the nest box, space and durability are very important. It should be kept in a place that is safe from predatory visitors like cats.

With holidays round the corner, it’s time to get our hands and feet muddy and create a backyard for our feathered friends and little wonders of the natural world.

(The author is an award-winning nature photographer and co-founder of the Youth for Conservation. In this monthly column he talks about his passion for nature, photography and conservation.)