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How can we improve biodiversity in our gardens?

Published on July 31st 2020
A close up of a flower
Have you ever wondered about biodiversity, what it is and how you can create a more biodiverse garden?
If so, you have come to the right place. Yesterday, I had the privilege to talk about biodiverse gardening with Candide through a webinar that they hosted as part of their #PolliNationSA movement. If you couldn't make the webinar, follow the link with the password below for a recording of the session. Alternatively, read further for some of the topics we covered in the webinar.
Password: +WGL7&n=

What is Biodiversity?

It is the sum total of any life form that you would find in a specific area. Biodiversity is a great indicator of the health of that ecosystem. Healthy biodiversity has an effect on the number of insects and birds for pollination, the cycling of nutrients by compost eating bacteria, even small mammals and lizards for feasting on crop-eating insects.
“From individual species through entire ecosystems, biological diversity is vital for human health and well-being. The quality of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe all depend on keeping the natural world in good health.” - António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.
A close up of a flower

Why is it important?

It is part of the web of life and we can't survive as humans just on our own. All of these plants and animals have a certain role to play. Extremely important that we create as much greenery as we can as far as we go.
The more we can plant, the more our environment will improve - which in turn includes the health of animals and insects.
Very important for conservation purposes to conserve as much as we can of this web of life!

Is it something we can only create outside in a large garden?

No, it can be created on a balcony or with a few pots! Plant locally indigenous plants like a pot with a selection of succulents. Other options are plectranthus, malva's and even aloes. These pots will then attract bees, birds and insects!
Highly invasive rooikrans

What are some of the threats to biodiversity?

  • Monoculture
  • Use of chemical pesticides
  • Overuse of fertiliser
  • Too much lawn
  • Invasive species
  • A ‘too neat’ garden
Indigenous rock garden at Babylonstoren

Tips for increasing biodiversity in your garden:

  • Start by creating a garden with terrain or habitat diversity that will encourage other organisms like birds, frogs, reptiles etc. to move in. This can include a rock garden or a fish pond. Use trees and shrubs as a framework, as well as annuals and perennials.

Rock Garden | Area Specific

Water Garden | Area Specific

  • Use locally indigenous plants and geology to encourage biodiversity. For instance, in the Western Cape, you can plant a fynbos or strandveld garden, depending on location.
  • Include native plant species that provide food and habitat to native insect species.
  • To encourage a wider variety of wildlife, plant shrubs and trees that are ideal for nesting, and add feeders and water sources to help attract birds.
A bird flying in the sky
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  • Reduce your lawn or replace the lawn with groundcovers. Groundcovers also reduce weeds.
  • Plant indigenous annuals in autumn that not only create beautiful displays in spring but will also attract beneficial pollinators like honeybees.
  • Planting Cape reeds and indigenous perennials that attract insects will, in turn, attract small reptiles like geckos and chameleons.
  • Plant local aloes in rock gardens, their nectar-filled flowers will attract sunbirds, and the dry leaves of the bitter aloe (Aloe ferox) will provide the perfect shelter for geckos and lizards. Attracting reptiles to the garden will help in biological control of insects.
  • Different succulents like vygies, crassulas, spekboom, as well as perennials will attract butterflies to your garden.
  • Old tree stumps do not have to be removed as it serves as a potential nesting site for bees.
  • Old logs and tree trunks are also decomposed by fungi, bacteria and other ground-dwelling organisms, that successively provide organic matter (food) for plants.
  • Humid and moist areas in the garden will promote conditions for the harmless Common Slugg-Eater (Duberria lutrix) that will control snails and slugs.
  • Climbers in trees, even dead tree stumps, provide potential nesting sites for birds.
  • Why not add a bat-box to your garden? By attracting bats to the garden, you welcome these nocturnal insect-eating mammals to control pests that are active at night, like moths.
  • Provide shelter for bees by adding a bee hotel for solitary bees. Buy one from Tutus Loco.
  • Provide shelter for owls by adding an owl box to the garden - they will aid in the control of rodents.
  • A fish pond provides habitat for aquatic creatures like for dragonflies and damselflies. If mosquitoes larvae are a problem, get indigenous fish to take care of them.
A banana tree with green leaves
  • This water source will also invite frogs and toads that add another level of insect-control.
The best part of a biodiverse garden? It is mainly self-sustaining and, over time, garden biodiversity will increase drastically. By creating a biodiverse, indigenous garden you make a valuable contribution to conservation.

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