The end of summer means that most of our gardening is coming to an end, but read this before you go about preparing your garden for winter. The kindest and best thing you can do for your plants, birds, animals, and insects is to leave your garden alone and not touch a thing this fall.
Leaving flowers, leaves, and stems in place means that possible food sources for birds are left in tact all winter. Leaving dead leaves that have fallen from trees and shrubs on the ground provide additional hibernating habitat for a variety of insects and small animals. These small insects and animals are not only integral to our garden health but may also be a food source for birds in winter and early spring.
Insect-eating birds, such as chickadees, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, phoebes, and bluebirds, will welcome protein-rich insects available to them during the coldest part of the year. These birds are able to find hibernating insects in dead plant stems and branches, and leaf litter.
Think your garden is hosting insects you don’t want – dead plants and leaves gathered in the garden provide a winter home to some butterflies as well as their chrysalises as well as other important insects. Not to mention bees need somewhere to live and they are important for pollinating.
Furthermore, some plants and flowers leave seeds, berries, and other items that birds will eat throughout the winter, cutting, pruning, and deadheading means ridding birds of valuable food sources. In fact, why not take it a step further and consider planting berry-producing shrubs and trees this fall – fall is, after all, one of the best times of years to plant trees of all sizes. Check out this link on some great native species, such as dogwoods and serviceberries:
Lastly, leaving dead plant material will allow plants to gather snow, which will protect plants from very cold and dry weather, by ensuring there is moisture at the roots.
Leaving plants intact also can make winter yards beautiful, architectural, and remind us that winter will come to an end.
In fact, the least disturbance you do to your garden the better – leave your plants, flowers, leaves in tact, don’t walk through your garden in fall, as insects have already found their homes, and just enjoy the winter scene as snow and plants create pastoral winter images that make for beautiful and interesting winter gardens.