With all of the urban sprawl and new construction across the Sarasota and Tampa areas, many of our natural areas are being lost. Even with efforts to keep preserve areas, many of the natural flora and fauna habitats of Florida are decreasing.
If you wish to restore a balanced ecosystem to your yard and neighborhood, there are several ways to proceed. Here are some ideas to incorporate into your landscaping which will help to support natural elements and provide a home for insects, birds an d animals who need it.
All of nature is organized into ecosystems, where the death of one allows the life of another – where everything is recycled and nothing is wasted. If we start to think of our backyard as an ecosystem in which we play an important role then we can make new discoveries on a regular basis and feel a greater connection to the cycle of life of which we are part.
Many types of gardens can be incorporated into an ecosystem-design approach, but all such designs share certain characteristics. The first is diversity. The more diversity contained in an ecosystem, the more stable it will be. Thus, we strive to create different types of habitats, and use a varied array of plants to attract many types of wildlife, from the smallest microbes to large birds and mammals. While we will never understand all the complexities of life, even in our own backyard, it is an opportunity to start to think about how one organism or plant is essential to the life of others.
Components of a Backyard Balanced Ecosystem
It Starts With Soil: The groundwork for a healthy backyard ecosystem starts with your soil. The soil is home to a vast amount of micro-organisms – from single cell organisms to earthworms – which combine to form a comprehensive web of life essential to plant health. Nutrients from organic materials are broken down and stick to soil particles, permitting the improved water and air flow critical to healthy root and plant growth. To encourage a diverse and healthy soil structure in a residential landscape, the easiest method is composting. Compost is packed with micro-organism nutrients which are a product of partially decomposed organic materials. Sandy soil, which is prevalent in our area, uses compost to improve water and nutrient retention. Adding 3 inches of compost will have an immediate beneficial effect on upper layers of soil, and over time the nutrient-rich organisms reach deeper layers of the soil. Being consistent with compost additions will continue to see improvements to the soil.
Plants Live in Communities: Once the soil is healthy, the plants you choose for your balanced ecosystem will provide the habitat and food source for a wide range of insects, birds and animals. Plants tend to live together in communities which support a specific type of ecosystem. For instance, a plant community may form a butterfly and honeybee garden, or perhaps a pond with grasses, reeds and flowers may provide a perfect home for frogs, fish and small mammals. The type of plant community you establish on your property will depend on soil type, moisture and exposure to sunlight. Here’s a Tip: The greater the number of plants that are included from a particular community, the greater the diversity of wildlife that will be attracted. Likewise, the greater the number of communities that are included in a single garden, the greater the diversity of animal, bird and insect life you are likely to attract.
Habitats are Often Layered: To further break down how a balanced ecosystem works, it is important to understand that certain animals will gravitate to certain areas of a single plant community. For instance, earthworms may live under a rock, while butterflies live amongst the flowers. Communities with trees and shrubs which support and entirely separate grouping of wildlife. It is considered that there are 4 distinct vertical layers which can give the garden an abundant and healthy appearance.
Insects are Your Friends: While there are some nasty ones to avoid, the majority of insects are beneficial to your garden and are essential to attaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Some are necessary for pollination, and others serve as an important food source for birds and small animals. Butterflies are often the most popular insect visitor to a backyard garden, but a true diversity of beneficial insects will help immensely in preventing infestations of undesirable insects – and in some cases, the garden villains can be completely eliminated. Insects do often eat plants, but this is a natural part of the ecosystem and is generally only minor damage. If you are looking to create a sustainable ecosystem, the main purpose of your gardens in not aesthetic, but the plants are there to provide food and reproductive sites for all of the species they invite.
If You Build It, The Animals Will Come: Larger birds and animals will be drawn to your backyard oases for food, shelter and water. Depending on your plants and your yard’s location , you may see rabbits, deer, squirrels and large cranes, storks and ibis. These animals will further assist in the control of insect populations, seed proliferation, and adding natural fertilizer to your ecosystem. To really attract these to your yard, consider plants which offer berries, nuts and seeds in addition to the smaller insects and mammals.
Whether you decide to build a koi pond, grow a colorful butterfly garden, or provide a dense hedge system for animals to find shelter, you’ll find everything you need to support your efforts at Big Earth Landscape Supply.