Designing an eco-friendly garden

Hands holding pot plant with garden tools on the side.

Designing an eco-friendly garden is a great way to support New Zealand’s native plants and birds. While there are some general ways to be eco-friendly (like choosing water-wise plants and natural/organic pesticides), here are a few gardening tips that will integrate your garden with New Zealand’s ecosystem.

Support local birds and plants

If you’d like to attract birds to your garden, there are a number of native and non-native flowering plants that will provide food for our many nectar feeders. Kowhai, a winter-flowering tree, is particularly good at attracting tui and bellbirds. Other native plants are puriri, New Zealand fuchsia, and pohutukawa. For non-native options, protea and viburnum are good options. If you specifically want to attract tuis, choose plants with red flowers.

While non-native can be beautiful and can attract birds, it’s always better to choose local. New Zealand has many beautiful native plants that will easily grow in your garden. By planting native vegetation, you contribute to the native plant industry, and your garden also provides continuity between patches of native bush, facilitating pollination and propagation in wild areas.

Avoid weedy species

New Zealand has a fantastic climate for plant growth. This means that rapidly growing non-native plants can quickly become a weedy, invasive pest. You may think that by planting them in your garden they will be contained, but weedy plants can quickly get out of hand. If you prune them back, the dropped cuttings may spread to adjacent properties. If they have fruit, birds will spread them even more widely. We recommend avoiding weedy species in gardening and replacing the ones you already have with native alternatives.

Visit the Department of Conservation website for more information about weeds and read more here about the worst weeds in New Zealand – New Zealand’s Dirty Dozen.

Don’t spread disease

New Zealand’s native flora is susceptible to foreign diseases, like Kauri dieback disease. While Kauri dieback is unlikely to be found in your garden, there is another disease that requires attention and mitigation – myrtle rust.

Myrtle rust is caused by the fungus Austropuccinia psidii. It was carried by the wind from Australia in 2017 and infects a number of our native myrtle species, including mānuka, pōhutukawa, and plants in the genus Lophomyrtus. Even outbreaks in a garden can threaten wild plants since the fungal spores can travel long distances by wind.

To protect native myrtles from myrtle rust, it is important not to introduce or encourage myrtle rust in your gardens. Things you can do include watering myrtle species at the base in the mornings, prune myrtles in winter and avoid planting highly susceptible plants. These include Lophomyrtus species and cultivars (such as ‘Red dragon’), lilly pilly or monkey apple (non-native Syzygium species) and willow myrtle (Agonis flexuosa). There is a more comprehensive gardener’s guide for avoiding myrtle rust here.

Enjoy!

Once you have designed your eco-friendly garden, be sure to enjoy it! Set up an outdoor space so you can sit with your plants and birds. This will be an excellent reward for your hard work. And, by hosting guests in your space, you may encourage them to support New Zealand’s native plants and birds in their own gardens.