Let's talk...GARDEN CLEANUP & THE BENEFITS OF WAITING
Do you know...Spring garden cleanup actually begins during the previous autumn? Because many wonderful pollinating insects overwinter among dried leaves, inside hollow plant stems and general garden debris, as well as burrow beneath exposed soil, NOT cleaning it up but leaving your garden to stand "messy" or "as is" instead until mid-spring will do so much in supporting struggling pollinator populations.
By letting plants die back during autumn and stay in place through winter, you'll be providing habitat for hungry birds to forage seeds and desired shelter for hibernating insects. If you absolutely have to tidy things up before winter, you might gently gather up and leave the garden or yard waste in an out of the way loose pile until the following spring daytime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 7 consecutive days. Another tip is to hold off laying down mulch too early, as this may block sleepy bees and other burrowing pollinators from emerging when they're ready. Pruning back woody perennials and stems too early might also destroy moth and butterfly cocoons and chrysalides, so as you clean up your garden, watch out for these insects and do your best not to disturb them. By thinking ahead in these ways and controlling the urge to clear everything out before the snow flies, dormant insects, caterpillars and egg sacs will have time to successfully re-emerge or hatch.
Let's talk...SOIL, TO PREP OR NOT TO PREP?
Most of what you hear out there is how to “amend the soil so you may grow X, Y, and Z plants”…we will instead talk about amending the plants for the soil you have. Modern society says to use fertilizers (synthetic or natural), physical agitation (such as tilling), pesticides, and other methods for managing the Earth you live on and to create a perfect garden. Perhaps, let’s use a different approach…
There are so many diverse plants in this world; plants have learned to adapt to a multitude of environments: nitrogen poor, marshy/boggy, arid climates, fertile land, sterile land, toxic conditions…just to name a few. With plants that grow in so many different conditions, why is it that we are only susceptible to growing the cultivars and varieties that man has created? Let’s look back at the natives that thrive in their natural habitat.
The Great Plains (as well as other regions of the U.S.) has an enormous variety of native and naturalized plants, from trees and shrubs to blooming beauties and even native foods! Plants that thrive in clay soils, nutrient rich conditions, drought, standing water, nitrogen fixing plants, shade, full sun, and every other condition you could imagine! Not only are native and naturalized plants extremely low maintenance, they will also benefit all of our local pollinators and animals alike.
Planting natives will also assist in managing “weedy” plants and invasive species. When you match the plant with the growing conditions your property has to offer, everything tends to fall into place and manages itself. When we overdo it and there is too much harvesting, the lands are drained, unable to replenish itself with vitality. Let’s all do our part and contribute back to the planet which sustains our everyday life.
Here is a small list of options to consider for the complicated conditions commonly experienced:
- FULL SUN, DROUGHT TOLERANT
- Monarda spp. (Bee Balm)
- Echinacea spp. (coneflower)
- Anise Hyssop
- WET CONDITIONS, FULL - PT. SUN
- Blue or Hoary Vervain
- Joe Pye Weed
- SHADE, MEDIUM - DRY
- Solomon’s Seal
- Black Cohosh
If you're planting edibles, adding organic matter into the soil is essential for a healthy crop.There are several ways of doing this that are accommodating to the essential microbes in the soil and to the insects that call it home...such as organic compost, aged manure from grazing animals, and growing cover crops of plants that replenish the soil between growing your edibles, for example. These are easy gardening methods that we all can adopt to help contribute to habitat preservation and living in harmony with our natural world. Your garden will benefit from these gentle, mindful ways of tending the ground so that our pollinating insects can continue to do their important work...and Earth thanks you!
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