Stepping into a forest, you immediately notice the difference of atmosphere; the calming breeze, the cool shade as well as the odd noise made by various creatures of the forest. Wouldn’t it be special to have that exact experience in your very own garden?

Not everyone has a garden to their name, but even among them, very few ever make the most of what their garden could offer, for various reasons. Gardening might seem to be time consuming, but if you are successful in creating your very own ecosystem in your garden, you will hardly ever have the need to replace or maintain anything.

That’s because many of the gardens we see today go against the natural order of the world, artificially created by human hands and forced to remain that way. Of course more effort and maintenance would be needed for such gardens, these directly go against nature and the natural order of things rather than working with it. But the good news is this can change. And here are a few things you can do to make it happen.

Get rid of your lawn

That Australian grass might look nice on your garden, but it’s not what grows naturally in the grounds of Sri Lanka. In order to maintain these grass variants, not only would you have to waste valuable water, but also use fertiliser, and maybe even other agrochemicals if you’re serious about having a perfectly manicured lawn.

Getting rid of it not only saves you a lot of money, but also allows natural grasses to grow on the ground, allowing better environments for pollinators and other small creatures of the earth. Once these settle in, you’re already on the path to creating your own ecosystem.

If parting with your grass is something too hard for you, consider sectioning off places where you would want to have your lawn, and areas where you’ll allow natural shrubs and grasses to take over.

Right plant, right place

The more you go against the natural order of things, the more effort you’re going to have to put into maintaining your ecosystem, and one other big place this can be changed is through the choice of plants.

Make the conscious decision to grown and nurture plants that are naturally found in your region. It doesn’t make sense for someone in the dry zone to grow plants usually found in the wet zone, and the same goes the other way around.

By cultivating plant species that are naturally found in your surroundings, you’ll be doing a favour to the ecosystem you live in as well. Many animal and plant species rely on these plants for their survival and as forest cover dwindles, your garden with its naturally found plants will be a welcome refuge for them.

Of course, you’re going to have to be smart about things, and plan accordingly with the size of your garden and other factors, but with good planning, even growing shrubs and bushes natural to your area alone can make a massive difference.

Consider how plants in a forest are located. The canopy created by trees, and the shrubs as well as bushes that receive the remaining light. Keep these in mind when picking and planting what will grow in your ecosystem.

Let balance happen

If you have to use agrochemicals, use them sparingly and keep them limited to fertilisers, and focus more on using organic fertilisers. These condition the soil and introduce beneficial bacteria that might have been lost before. Not only that, they help retain more of the nutrients that you add to the ecosystem using chemical fertiliser.

Sadly, letting the natural balance take over is a time consuming process that is slow and requires a lot of patience. But with time, the balance will settle, and your garden will change for the better. A few years down the line, if you’ve added any fruit plants or vegetables in your garden, they will yield fruit naturally with barely any maintenance needed. Even without it, you’ll start to notice how many creatures and wildlife in your area will be attracted to your garden space. They might not be able to thank you but rest assured you are protecting their existence by what you do.

There are plenty of ideas and instruction online in creating a natural garden ecosystem and a soil that is rich and alive. But we hope that this is enough to get you started. If you don’t have a garden to create an ecosystem, then why not consider making one indoors using an aquarium. But that is for another time to discuss.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage