PLANTING the gardening bug in young minds is a passion for celebrity gardener Costa Georgiadis.
The popular TV star has teamed up with Junior Landcare and is asking Aussie kids 'What's in Your Backyard?'.
He wants children across Australia to grab a camera and snap photos of the flora and fauna in their backyard.
What's in Your Backyard? is a key activity in Junior Landcare's new Learning Centre.
This resource has 30-minute learning activities developed by education professionals to help children be aware, empowered and active in caring for their local environment.
Launching the campaign at Camdenville Public School in Sydney, Costa and eight students planted a bushcare school garden with fire retardant native plants after the school summer holidays were filled with bushfire and smoke.
Plants such as native grasses, lomandras, acacias and banksias were planted to create a home for insects, such as hoverflies, moths, native bees, dragonflies and butterflies, as well as lizards and smaller marsupials.
"One of the biggest impacts of the bushfires is habitat, and our landscapes have been disturbed," Costa said.
"At the moment in many parts of fire zones it's just telegraph poles. They are not going to create shade for a long time.
"We need to ease that disturbance by getting groundcover over that soil.
"We need corridors of protection to prevent fire by using fast-establishing, pioneering indigenous native plants - plants that are indigenous to your local area.
"These hold the ground stable, provide the canopy, the leaf drop, the microclimate. These are the best and biggest, most adapted plants to kick-start the canopy.
"This is our chance to do something little but to be a part of the long-term solution.
"We need low-growing cover for seedlings to grow up, to capture the rain and slow it down, and allow that to elevate the seed bank.
"It's so unstable and once it (the water) starts to run, it goes into the creeks and once the ash goes into the creeks it creates deoxygenation, fish kills and algal bloom."
Costa advised people across Australia to look to their local council nurseries, local Landcare and local nurseries, Bushcare groups and local community gardens for advice on native indigenous species.
"The best thing about gardening is it's a distraction to get you to step outside and leave behind your thoughts and worries," he said.
"Every day we're reminded of the devastation. People are tired with the conditions they've been facing for months now.
"We're sowing seeds and creating hope, and from a horticultural therapy point of view, gardening is a kind of medicine."
He hopes by sowing the seeds of gardening in children, they will become the guardians of the outdoors.
"We can't get children to protect the landscape if they don't love it and the only way for them to love it is to get their hands and feet in it," he said.
"The only way to do that is through planting projects.
"When they start to love it, they see what this layer upon layer come can do to bring back the insects and birds, but they can't come back unless they have flowers, and protection.
"The pollinators, moths, dragonflies, butterflies, bats, microbats, bees, not just bees, need pollen.
"Setting up bug hotels is really critical, then we can engage kids to understand, they want to keep natural things.
"Pulling up all these dead branches and leaves, cleaning it up to the level of the household is the wrong thinking because it's not for humans.
"Nature cleans it up over time, so we shouldn't be cleaning up every dead leaf, which could become a home for a native wasp.
"When you leave that architect there we have a chance to provide habitat.
"Sometimes we need to do less at different times and more is not always better. Once you disturb the land, you create more opportunities for feral species.
"It allows more light and moisture, then we get the problems that come along.
"I explained to the kids the role mulch plays is as important as the role of the soil."
He said gardening was as important as STEM subjects.
"It's all STEM - the biology of the soil, above-the-ground strata, the habitat. In all of these we need to embed STEM but we need to engage them with stories."
Costa said he was getting the children to realise their efforts made the difference.
The 'What's In Your Backyard?' campaign will encourage the next generation to get outside and document what's in their local environment.
The campaign aims to help kids appreciate their environment; and to understand biodiversity, where their food comes from, indigenous perspectives and waste management.
Kids can submit photos to Junior Landcare to be in with a chance to win one of 10 $250 cameras. Closing date is Monday, April 20.
Junior Landcare Program manager Jo Stentiford said the new Junior Landcare Learning Centre educated kids about simple things they can do in their community and environment.
Visit Junior Landcare for details.
- ACM is a media partner of Landcare Australia.