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Why Your Garden Matters

Why Your Garden Matters – a wild guide to joining the plots in Port Stephens

Do you want a high maintenance backyard and a manicured lawn – or a thriving native garden teeming with life and nature?

Although large remote expanses of land are preferable as wildlife habitat, some species can coexist with us in more populated areas.

Bushland in Port Stephens is fast becoming fragmented or cleared for housing, roads, shops and industrial precincts. These patches of native bush no longer connect with larger areas like Tomaree National Park and other reserves.

As wildlife habitat shrinks, the corridors for essential seasonal or genetic movement also disappear. This is where you as a
local resident can help.

View and download the Why Your Garden Matters brochure.

Let’s Get Started

In planning your garden, consider the following important aspects to make your garden a safe haven, linking areas of surround bushland.

List the wildlife you see around your property and focus on their needs.

Add a water source, rocks, logs and leaf litter so wildlife finds your garden safe and interesting.

Choose plants that fruit, flower or seed at all times of the year.

If your space allows, a large tree is ideal, providing shade, shelter and safety.

Select local native plants that suit your conditions – note your climate, soils and position.

Reduce or remove the lawn – it provides no shelter or food. A bush-­style garden will be lower maintenance.

Choose plants for your local area

Terrestrial animals need vegetation for foraging, hiding and breeding. Nature’s garden contains trees, shrubs and groundcovers varying in texture, shape and height.

Your garden can do the same and comprise of many layers – five is a good number for most locations, plus leaf litter.

Habitat Planting Guide – Tomaree Peninsula

Some Port Stephens local plants

  • Groundcovers: Purple coral pea, Cut-leafed daisy, Native violet, Pigface.
  • Scramblers: Wonga wonga vine, Climbing guinea flower.
  • Understorey and grasses: Native rosemary, Tea tree species, Gymea Lily, Kangaroo grass, Lomandra.
  • Midstorey: Old man banksia, Coastal wattle, Coastal tea tree.
  • Canopy (home gardens): Tuckeroo, NSW Christmas bush, Broad-leaved paperbark, Sydney red gum, Scribbly gum, Blueberry ash.

If your garden does not have space for even a small tree, talk to your local councillor about organising some street trees along the nature strip.

For more details about local plants suitable for your garden, see our Habitat planting guide. Further information is available from EcoNetwork’s affiliate group EcoPollinators.


  • Provide bird baths or saucers at different heights.
  • Change water daily and keep dishes clean – rainwater is ideal.
  • Birds need to see approaching predators and escape to overhanging branches.
  • Provide watering stations for echidnas and lizards.
  • Leave a stick in the water so insects can climb out.
  • Build a frog pond with an overflow puddle.


  • Feel free to just let the garden go in places – a tidy or exposed garden is not safe for wildlife.
  • Think twice before clearing trees or shrubs – they are someone’s home or food.
  • Native trees are a priority – even a single small­-medium tree.
  • Install a species ­specific nestbox.
  • Leaf litter, fallen bark and hollow logs provide food and shelter for lizards and invertebrates.
  • Create a ‘lizard lounge’ – a safe haven using rocks or terracotta pots.


  • Food for wildlife comes in many shapes and sizes – provide a diverse menu to attract a wide variety of creatures.
  • Choose plants that attract insects which in turn will feed insectivorous birds.
  • Avoid large ‘bird attracting’ hybrid grevilleas. Birds like noisy miners will take over and drive others away.
  • Possums and gliders love to eat juicy leaves, buds and shoots – sap from a gum tree is a tasty treat.
  • Include autumn and winter flowering plants – wildlife will visit your garden all year round.
  • Provide native grasses for seed-eating birds like finches and rosellas, and for butterflies to lay eggs.


  • Remember – once you encourage wildlife into your garden, you are responsible for their safety.
  • If you have space, native trees and taller shrubs provide an escape from domestic and wild predators as well as a good lookout.
  • Domestic pets kill native wildlife. If you have a cat or dog, keep them away from your habitat garden.
  • Don’t use garden chemicals, pesticides or rat poisons. In a balanced ecosystem, natural predators take care of things for you.
  • If you must use pest control companies, restrict them to indoors – spiders, insects and lizards are not pests.

So, let’s join the plots …

  • Create a garden that can become a stepping stone to an existing wildlife corridor.
  • Better still, get together with neighbours and ‘join the plots’ in your street, communal gardens or school grounds.
  • Even balcony gardens can be a magnet for birds, bees and other pollinators with potted native plants and water dishes.
  • Minimise barriers such as solid fences that restrict movement of ground dwelling animals and koalas. Leave gaps and choose wildlife-friendly fencing designs.

Where to buy plants for Port Stephens gardens:

Tilligerry Sanctuary

Newcastle Wildflower Nursery

Trees in Newcastle

Hunter Indigenous Plants

Community Environment Network Wildplant Nursery

Images © Trevor Murray and/or EcoNetwork

This project is supported by Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.