Sunday, November 18

Celebrate our planet

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You can help to restore nature’s balance in towns and cities by turning your garden into a healthy ecosystem

Over the next week, people across the globe will join hands to observe important environmental days. Commemoration days give people a chance to reflect on and acknowledge the environmental difficulties we face in the 21st century, and to be part of the solutions.

March 18 sees the start of the Department of Water and Sanitation’s National Water Week (March 18 to 24), followed by the official start of autumn in the southern hemisphere with the autumnal equinox on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, as South Africans celebrate Human Rights Day, the world also commemorates the International Day of Forests, followed by World Water Day on Thursday and the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s Earth Hour at 8.30pm on Saturday.

Forests and trees

The International Day of Forests is celebrated on Wednesday under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The theme for this year’s observance day is “Forests and Sustainable Cities”.

Forests are ecosystems that fight climate change and reduce the risk of floods and droughts. They provide food, fuel, medicine and livelihoods for millions of people.

Trees also provide food, shelter and protection for birds and animals. In cities, trees absorb and store carbon which helps lessen the impact of climate change in and around urban areas.

Freshwater resources

The theme for World Water Day on Thursday is “Nature for Water” and explores nature-based solutions to difficult global water challenges. This year’s campaign focuses on how solutions found in nature can be used to reduce floods, drought and water pollution. By planting trees to rebuild forests, reconnecting rivers to flood plains and restoring wetlands, we can help rebalance the water cycle, fight climate change and improve people’s health.

Garden ecosystems

You can actively be a part of the fight against climate change by keeping a garden and making changes in how you lay out and maintain your garden. Gardening is good for your health – and great for our planet.

Your garden can play an important role in helping to restore nature’s balance in towns and cities by providing “stepping stone” habitats for species. Turn your garden into a healthy ecosystem, a home for birds, butterflies, bees, lizards, frogs and earthworms.

The sand rain frog can be heard day or night after rain
or during dense fog. Picture: Atherton De Villiers

How can you build a healthy garden ecosystem?

Supply a pond for frogs

If you are able to create a pond or wetland in your garden, using only rainwater harvested into tanks or channelled from your roof’s guttering, you may be able to attract frogs and other interesting species to your garden.

If you want to learn more about these creatures, consider the updated and revised Frogs of Southern Africa: A Complete Guide, by Louis du Preez and Vincent Carruthers, published by Struik Nature (R450).

In the book, the authors describe how frogs are attracted to an ideal habitat – even more so than food. However, natural food resources are still important and if you use insecticides in your garden, you reduce the possibility of frogs surviving.

“Identify the species that occur naturally in the area because these are the ones most likely to come into the garden,” write the authors. “Then explore your suburb or district and look for characteristics of the natural habitats of frogs.” Reproduce these conditions in the garden and wait for frogs to visit.

All 169 southern African frog species are described in the book, along with their tadpole stages, conservation status, habitats and habits. Calls can be accessed through QR codes in the book or download the mobile app “Complete Guide to the Frogs of Southern Africa” on Google Play and App Store (R250). The app brings calls, behaviour and habitat to life in high-definition video and photos. Learn more about the book at www.frogbook.co.za.

Plant a tree

Trees with flowers and fruit encourage wildlife to the garden. Before planting a tree, consider trees which are indigenous to your area. These are trees best suited to your climatic conditions – they are easier to grow and use less water. Know the full size of the height, crown spread and trunk diameter before making a final selection.

Create habitats for creatures

By including a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials in your garden, you can create different habitats that attract a variety of insects, birds and even small animals.

Colourful flowers, or those with abundant pollen or nectar, attract good insects and pollinators. By having the good guys in your garden, you are less likely to have harmful insects and your plants will grow strong and more able to withstand drought. Add rocks and stones, providing shelter for lizards, or set up an insect hotel in a secluded spot.

Don’t rake up leaves. Leave them as mulch on the ground, the perfect habitat for insects.

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