Create a thriving ecosystem in your own backyard

Over the last year, you’ve put recycling habits in place, made more ethical shopping choices and tried some upcycling. Now what? It’s a new year, and smack in the middle of summer, so there’s no better time to move your sustainability actions to the outdoors.

With a few small tweaks to the way you tend your garden, you can refresh your outdoor spaces and set the stage for a thriving ecosystem for plants, bees, butterflies and birds. Best of all, you can do it without increasing water or energy use.

Support native birds, bees, and flora

Bees, butterflies, birds and insects play a vital part in a thriving garden. From pollinating flowers to fertilising plants, they keep our ecosystems in check. By creating a habitat that encourages them to live in your garden, they’ll help keep it beautiful. With bees and some bird species under threat, the safe haven at your place also contributes to the wider conservation effort.

Attract bees by planting generous clusters of the same flower, but avoid hybrids if you can. Yellow, blue, and purple flowers are bees’ favourites and it’s a good idea to choose flowers with flat petals so the bees can land and easily reach the nectar. Planting new flowers for each season will give them a year-round nectar supply. Keep a shallow water source nearby to help the bees stay hydrated, and never spray plants when they are flowering.

Attract butterflies with a swan plant. Spring is the best time to plant them, and we recommend putting them in pots so you can move them into sheltered spots. Ideally, you’ll want only two or three caterpillars per plant to maintain a steady food supply. Look for eggs on the underside of the leaves, and once hatched, put in some supports and place some netting over the swan plant to keep the chrysalises safe until they transform.

Attract birds with flowers and native plants. Good news! Many of the flowers you plant to attract bees will also attract birds. Birds love a bit of variety and they love native plants. The more you have, the more you’ll attract. A bird bath is a great way to bring native birds into your outdoor spaces, giving them a source of drinking water and the ability to paddle and play away from predators.

Top water saving tips:

  • Water in the morning when evaporation is low.
  • Plant thirsty plants near each other to create smaller areas to water.
  • Water the roots, not the leaves.
  • A moisture reader can tell you when your plants don’t need to be watered.
  • Create shallow depressions around plants so gravity pulls water to the roots.
  • Use a soaker hose for a slow drip feed.
  • Use irrigation systems and timers on larger gardens.
  • Try a moisture retention product like Water Storage Crystals or Saturaid to reduce run off.
  • Rainwater harvesting can give you a dedicated water source for the garden.

Emerge Struvite – a recycled fertiliser

There’s a new, premium fertiliser in the New Zealand market with a unique point of difference. Emerge Struvite transforms wastewater byproducts into a sustainable fertiliser. Made from crystallised phosphorus and nitrogen, this ecofriendly, odourless fertiliser is produced at the Māngere Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“We are taking something traditionally seen as waste and harnessing the good in it,” says Watercare resource recovery manager Rob Tinholt.

“We have shifted our thinking of what it is we do from simply treating wastewater to realising we have one of the highest phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in New Zealand right at our fingertips, so we are developing practical ways of extracting that nutrient value to return to soil.”

It’s a true circular economy product, taking waste and turning it into a valuable asset that’s perfect for lush plant growth.

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