Small biotopes – the icing on the cake in a natural garden

The secret life in herbaceous perennials, stone and brushwood heaps

Hedges and natural meadows as the most important habitats in a natural garden have already been presented. If you take a closer look at a hedge in the Bräunlinger area, you will notice that it actually comprises a whole range of different small habitats. Most of the Baar hedges were created as reading stone heaps. Where the woods are not so dense, one finds therefore still open stone heaps. At the edge of the hedge there is a hem of perennial plants, mainly from the umbel family. And where larger trees and shrubs were felled for firewood, the thinner branches usually lie around as heaps of brushwood. These are all small biotopes, and they contribute significantly to the diversity of the habitat of a hedge.

Very similar habitats can also be created with simple means and little space in the garden, thereby creating a habitat for a large number of other animal species.

Stone piles and dry-stone walls

Why not stack a pile of natural stones in a sunny corner of the garden? With a little craftsmanship, you can even build a dry stone wall (without mortar) in a steeper part of the garden to create a small terrace. You will be amazed what you can see there.

In the cracks, crevices and stone gaps there is a varied life. A fly that has settled on a stone in the sun to clean itself does not notice that it is being observed. She overlooks the spider, which has been lurking for a long time for prey. One jump and the fly has become the prey for the spider. But it must also be on its guard: lizards and birds regularly search the stone pile for prey.

Where does this diversity come from? The loosely heaped stone piles offer different living conditions. Besides the dry and warm stone surfaces there are the cooler, earthy cracks. To create a stone heap, stones of different sizes are stacked on top of each other as loosely as possible and some soil is brought in. This should create cracks and cavities in order to offer animals and plants a settlement opportunity. Nature takes care of everything else on its own.

Brushwood pile

Most hedgehogs you see are unfortunately the flat ones on the streets. If you want to see them three-dimensionally in the garden, you have to offer them something. Hedgehogs like to take a heap of brushwood, consisting of shrubs lying loosely on top of each other, as a shelter. Here he can pad his sleeping place with leaves and grass and spend his hibernation. One should not disturb it on that occasion.

Faded perennials

Flowering perennial plants are an attraction for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Once the plants have faded, a tidy garden owner cuts off the above-ground parts and even throws them into the garbage can. But also withered shrubs have their charm. The first hoarfrost conjures up a filigree splendour from them. And the onset of cold also brings food-seeking guests into the garden: thistle finches with their strikingly colourful colouring fall into groups and pick the seeds from the flower heads.

Other animals use the hollow stems: earwigs, centipedes, butterfly caterpillars and a large number of insect larvae find a weather-protected hibernation place here. Anyone who splits old stems from reeds or umbellifers will be surprised what they find. The following year, the hollow stems offer wild bees a place to raise their brood. In order for the young bees to hatch, the perennials, which are visibly ageing in the meantime, must be left standing for another winter. Then, with a little luck, you can see the young bees hatch. Wild bees, which are usually much smaller than honey bees, are absolutely peaceful and hardly ever sting.

Garden pond

A small pond still brings the most life into a garden. If you don’t have a dense clay soil in the ground, you have to create an artificial waterproofing, the easiest way is with a stable pond liner. At the deepest point a garden pond can be 50-80 cm deep. At the edge the foil is buried and covered with earth and stones. In the water you can also apply some soil to the foil. This must of course be done sparingly, otherwise the vegetation will become too lush. Also with the introduction of water plants one should be reserved, otherwise the water surface is overgrown within one year.

Animals usually do not need to be abandoned: Water beetles and dragonflies will find every new water anyway, and even newts will adjust themselves after some time with a little luck. After the construction it takes a while until the pond has found its equilibrium. There it can come already once to an algae bloom, however, this passes. If necessary, one uses some water snails, which graze the algae.

For the water supply it is easiest to lead the water from a gutter into the lake. If the water level falls once in the summer, it only reflects the natural conditions.

Depending on the location of the lake and the nutrient content of the lake, it has to be desludged from time to time, that means one removes leaves and dead plant parts. Often you only notice how much life is in the water. The dangerous looking but completely harmless dragonfly larvae crawl between the plant stems, and sometimes you see a newt larva with its filigree gills.

Garden ponds have almost become fashionable lately. Of course you often see bare concrete tubs with pampas grass on the shore and a water lily in the water and in the worst case even goldfish. They have nothing in common with a natural biotope, at best they can only be used as a bathtub for birds. How much more interesting is a naturally designed pond with a variety of animals and plants!

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