Go Easy on Fall Clean Up

Before heading out to clean up the garden this fall.  Take a few minutes to think about who will be using your garden and how we can provide a winter habitat.  Read on for three good reasons NOT to clean up the garden this fall.

Leaving standing stalks of dead plants, especially under flower heads is where butterflies seek shelter or in the layers of leaf litter for wild bees and dormant spiders and many other beneficial insects.

Bees and other Insects
– native bees need a place to spend this winter where they are protected from predators
– they can be found in a woodpile, under a piece of tree bark, in a crevice of a rock or in the stem of a coneflower, raspberry or ornamental grass
– some may spend the winter as an egg or larvae in the ground
– be sure to leave some bare ground without mulch to encourage nesting bumblebees

Butterflies and Moths
– we all know that the Monarch butterfly heads south in the fall, but many other butterflies use our gardens for winter refuge such as the mourning cloak
– some butterflies in their adult form tuck themselves into rock cracks, under tree bark or in leaf litter
– other butterflies spend the winter in a chrysalis hanging from dead plant stems or tucked into the soil or leaf litter
– some even spend the winter as caterpillars rolled into a fallen leaf or inside a seed pods

Birds
– many insect-eating birds are welcome in the garden because they consume thousands of caterpillars and other pest insects
– by not cleaning up the garden means more ‘hibernating’ insects available to them during the winter
– intact perennials and shrubs provide berries and seeds all birds, especially the songbirds
– the standing, spent plants offer screening and a safe place for birds to forage.

What we can do:
– removed any sick plants to help with disease control during next year’s growing season
– leave a little corner of the property intact to will help create a winter haven for insects living in your garden year-round

The is so much beauty in a winter garden with the frosted leaves, rusty seedheads, plump berries, and glittering grasses.  A winter garden has a quiet, restful beauty that you will enjoy for months ahead.