Backyards for nature

Your backyard can help support Sydney’s biodiversity. It may be pallet sized or an acreage, but whatever the size, there are many ways to attract nature to your property.

Side profile of a mostly black jezebel butterfly with red, yellow and white markings on the outer wing sitting on a purple flower.

The more variety of plants you have in your garden the more animals will visit.

Go to your local bush and see how nature does it. You’ll notice a dense mix of groundcovers, shrubs, climbers and trees.

Create structure and variety in your garden. You don’t have to replicate nature exactly, but you can create a garden with different plant types and layers – from groundcovers and shrubs to a canopy of taller trees.

Don’t be afraid to cram a variety of plants in – denser plantings will bring more animals to visit and create more places for them to nest, breed, and shelter.

A backyard garden with three layers: A = canopy, B = midstorey, and C = understorey and groundcover. Growing a range of plants at different heights creates different layers and structures in your garden, which enhances biodiversity and supports native wildlife with food and shelter. Bird baths, insect hotels and flowering plants also help support our native wildlife. 1 = mature tree, 2 = dense shrub, 3 = insect hotel, 4 = flowers, bees and butterflies, 5 = mulch leaf litter, 6 = frog pond, 7 = rockery and logs, 8 = nesting box, 9 = small trees. Image: Anthouse Communications

Increase biodiversity in your garden

Choose plants that attract wildlife

Side profile of the common native blue-banded bee, Amegilla cingulata, with pale blue stripes on the abdomen flying towards a green plant with purple flowers.

Grow insect-attracting plants and you will see more bees and butterflies, along with insectivorous birds in your garden.

Plants with nectar-rich flowers attract bees, and birds such as honeyeaters and some parrots.

Insects will happily visit exotic plants, but natives are best to attract native wildlife.

A shrubby understorey is important for attracting wildlife, so plant dense shrubs and small trees to attract small insect-eating birds like blue wrens.

Blue, grey and black male superb fairy wren standing on edge of terracotta birdbath singing with beak wide open.Provide perches for magpies, currawongs and other large birds by growing tall trees. Find out more information on attracting birds to your garden.

Limit herbicide and pesticide use

Killing unwanted plant pests kills other animals too.

Think about what you plant

Garden responsibly by picking plants for your backyard that won’t become invasive weeds.

Stepping stone path lined by green plants in garden leading to back verandah of house.

If you live near bushland you can link your garden to the bush by growing native trees and shrubs local to your area. This will create stepping stones or green corridors for wildlife to move around.

Your local council plant nursery will have native plants local to your area (they may have free local plant giveaways) and advice on how to grow them:

If you choose exotic plants make sure they are easy to maintain, don’t require a lot of water and are unlikely to become weeds. Make sure you remove weeds from your garden on a regular basis.

Stepping stone footpath coursing through a garden with green succulents (pink pigfaces), rocks and shrubs.

Look after your soil. Use groundcover and natural mulches rather than woodchips.

Groundcovers (creeping plants) reduce evaporation from the soil, which means less watering, and prevent weeds from taking hold. 

Look for native groundcover plants like creeping boobialla, daisies, pigface, and prostrate grevilleas at your local nursery.

Natural mulches, like composted leaves, will improve your soil – unlike woodchips or synthetic weed mats. Avoid using woodchips because they:

  • stop oxygen from reaching your soil which can kill beneficial insects
  • repel water rather than letting it sink in
  • may attract termites
  • can be acidic and might change the pH of your soil.

Know your soil type to see what plants would suit it best. Plants suited to your soil will be healthier, more disease resistant, and produce more fruit and flowers.

You will need to care for your soil to get the most out of it.

Add nest boxes

Even if you don’t have much plant life in your outdoor space you can attract wildlife to your garden by installing a nest box or an insect hotel.

Hollows are natural holes in trees caused by disease, lightning strike or when old branches fall off.

Hollows vary in size and are homes for bees, birds, possums and microbats.

Trees take between 60 and 140 years to form a natural hollow so it’s important to preserve hollow-bearing old trees. These trees are being removed across Sydney, which means this important biodiversity resource is now in short supply.  

You can help our local wildlife by installing an artificial hollow in your garden. These are also known as artificial nests, or nest boxes, and are a great way to help hollow-nesting animals find a home.

Add a water feature 

A bean-shaped swimming pool converted into a natural pond with reeds and water plants growing in it and surrounded by a metal fence

Build a frog pond to add habitat and beauty to your garden.

You could also consider designing or retrofitting your swimming pool so that it is self-cleaning, free of chemicals, and cheaper to run. The birds will love it and you could even share a swim with native frogs and fish.

Limit paved and concreted areas to let water soak into your soil. 

Use natural groundcover or leave bare patches of dirt instead. 

Bare soil is important for insects that dig nests in the ground, like native blue-banded and teddy bear bees. Birds also like to forage in soil for insects, worms and other creatures.

Large properties and remnant patches of native bushland

Nearly 1000 native species are on the verge of extinction across New South Wales and more than 70% of land is privately owned. For example, most of the critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland occurs on private land.

Private landholders play an important role in protecting remnant native bushland and conserving biodiversity. The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) works in partnership with landholders to establish private land conservation agreements to conserve and manage high-value biodiversity on private land. Find out about the BCT's programs.

Are you a landholder with a small farm or lifestyle block? Connect with like-minded people to improve your land, production capacity and the environment through the Local Land Service’s Every Bit Counts project.