Knox getting back to nature

Melbourne’s Knox City Council is encouraging residents to embrace their native flora and fauna through its Gardens for Wildlife program.

The program provides guidance and practical advice for residents interested in turning their backyards into a haven for Australia’s native flora and fauna.

It is designed to encourage suburban block owners to set aside an area in the garden for local wildlife.

“The idea is for residents to create a place in their garden suitable for native plants and animals,” said Council’s Director Corporate Development Mark Dupe.

“It doesn’t have to be a complete backyard blitz. Just setting aside a special area in your garden for plants suitable for locally threatened wildlife is all it takes.

“We encourage residents to be involved at any level – even if it’s just a couple of native plants in a small section of their garden, they’re well on their way to establishing an area perfect for local wildlife.”

The program started in 2005 when Council was approached by several residents wanting assistance on how to maintain or create a native garden.

Council responded by seeking input from residents to create the program.

The program currently has around 330 participants with nine volunteers who carry out assessments on the gardens.

The program has grown in popularity through an interest in native wildlife and an inability to water gardens.

Water restrictions have meant that residents are seeking to plant native flora which is more climate adept.

A ‘Streetscape Program’ is run, encouraging participants to involve others in the local community.

Program members can invite their neighbours to visit their garden and talk about the program.

They are then given plant packs to take home and give it a go.

Council Biodiversity Coordinator Nadine Gaskall said it is not only the residents but also the environment that benefits.

“We have found that the program has helped greatly with removing environmental weeds,” she said.

“We found that 80 per cent of current participants have either removed a majority of environmental weeds or are currently removing them.”

Council runs a mentor program through a specifically developed course at Swinbourne University aimed at arming around 15 residents with the confidence to develop skills and help other residents to develop their gardens.

“We also run a variety of workshops for participants to become more involved with native vegetation.

“This includes open gardens where we will open up four gardens so other residents can visit and have a look at what is being done in the neighbourhood backyards,” said Gaskell.

A ‘Kindergarten for Wildlife’ program has been created with some 15 kindergartens teaching children the importance of natural space and native flora and fauna.

Many parents of these children have since joined the ‘Gardens for Wildlife’ program.

For more information regarding the program contact Nadine Gaskell, telephone (03) 9298 8279.