Garden Clippings for October 7, 2017
You would never know it by looking at my desk, but I admit that I am a neat freak. Cheryl is even better than me. Or worse, depending which end of the tidy scale you are standing.
Most of us are. We get up in the morning and tidy up the bed. We brush our teeth and put away the toothbrush. We have breakfast and put the dishes away. We jump in the recently vacuumed car and go to work. Next we pick up our tools that were put away exactly where we left them. Except for a few odd souls, most of us seek order instead of chaos. Neatness instead of clutter.
The same holds true in the garden. Now that we’ve had a good frost, the annual flowers have served their duty and will soon get tossed into the compost heap. The perennials have, for the most part, died back and are begging to be cleaned up.
In years gone by, Thanksgiving weekend was reserved for cleaning up our home garden. We’d chop down all the perennial tops to the bare ground. The few leftover weeds would be captured, and we’d rake up leaves that have begun to gather here and there. And when all was cleaned up, we’d apply a layer of fresh mulch. Finally we’d sit back and admire the resulting neatness. We would even admit to each other that the garden somehow looks better bald than when bursting with blooms.
But change is in the wind, and the change has come about because of a better understanding and awareness for Mother Nature. We are discovering that hauling away every shred of expired plant material is not doing wildlife any good.
Our gardens can play an important role in supporting wildlife and when we chop everything down to the bare earth, we inhibit nature’s role.
All winter long birds look for seeds and insects in search of food and water. They will use plant debris for shelter from wind and cold. The more nature you remove from the yard, the more likely birds will sing elsewhere.
There are only a few insects that are considered to be pests, and most play a vital role in nature. Native bees need a spot to spend winter and will often overwinter under bark or in and among plant stems.
Monarchs go south for the winter but other butterflies and moths take shelter where it is safe, dry and sheltered.
If perennials could choose, they would prefer to be left as is through winter. Old plant stems that remain in the garden provide insulation for their roots below. Additional insulation is provided when snow and leaves gather between the upright plant stems.
Your own muscles and back will thank you if you choose to clean up the garden in April rather than October. Plant stems are much easier to remove if they have been left to freeze all winter.
At time of writing, Cheryl and I have not yet begun our annual fall clean up, so it remains to be seen if we tackle the job in October or April. It’s not really up to me.