Are you curious about the pollinators that visit your garden and want to know how you can help?
There is so much that we can do in our own yards for our native bees, the butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, birds, and many more that are responsible for our flowers and food!
The National Environmental Education Foundation “NEEF” says it well here: “About 75% of all plants, including those in our yards, gardens, and parks, depend on pollinators. Home gardens in urban, suburban, and rural areas play an important role in providing habitat for pollinators and protecting them from threats.” Visit NEEF, for more info: www.neefusa.org/nature/land/protecting-pollinators
So, to help ensure that they make it through the winter in our very own gardens….here are 5 tips to help lead you in the right direction.
5 FALL GARDENING TIPS
1.) No Chemicals
The most important thing you can do today is to stop using any type of synthetic pesticide or chemical in or around your garden! This goes for the organic ones as well!
Because once you start trying to kill off pests with toxins you knock everything off balance in your garden by having killed the beneficial bugs. And when this happens you will find yourself in a vicious cycle of using…herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides…or what have you. Because there will be no Good Bugs to keep the bad ones in check.
The use of these chemicals strips your soil of its nutrients (kills every little thing below the surface that is responsible for healthy soil), so now you find yourself needing to add organic or synthetic fertilizers to boost the soil back up…but this is only a temporary fix.
There are lots of eco-friendly “DIY” things you can use for pests (the non-beneficial bugs.)
2.) Plant a ton of native wildflowers
These would be perennials or biennials that are zoned and occur naturally in your area. Be sure to get plants that bloom at different times of the season….from early spring, thru summer to fall.
So, by providing a continual food supply all season, you will keep them in your garden…and this is exactly where you want them.
For example… in my area of zone 7, Butterfly Weed is extremely important and a must in the garden. This post may help, How to Attract Bees with These 10 Flowers
And don’t forget the Grasses, which are very important in providing homes for the winter. Plant some annuals as well….like cosmos or zinnias (but avoid the “double bloom” varieties as these confuse pollinators).
3.) Do Not Clean Up Your Garden until Mid to late Spring.
At the end of summer and into fall once everything is done blooming almost everyone has the tendency to want to clean up, cut back all the stems, flower-heads, and rake all the leaves up but when you do this you are destroying places that pollinators need to over-winter and by leaving the seed-heads you are leaving food for the birds for the fall and winter.
I understand that you need to get the leaves off your grass to keep it alive but if you can just rake the leaves out of the way somewhere and leave them. Because this offers tiny cozy homes for moths, bees, and some butterflies ( like the “Morning Cloak” butterfly here in SE Tennessee that hibernates through winter ). Leaves also help to protect your plants while providing nutrients as they decompose (think of it as free mulch and fertilizer straight from mother nature.)
Lots of pollinators also use the hollow stems of your ornamental grasses and some flowers, like BeeBalm or shasta daisy to overwinter in.
So, just leave it messy…leave some logs and sticks and piles of leaves, let everybody settle in for the winter then come spring after everyone is awake…you can start your “Spring Cleaning”.
4.) Do Not Mulch! or if you do, do it sparingly!
Now when I say “mulch”, I mean the store-bought bags or even the bulk mulch. The reason for this is most of our native bees (like the Bumblebee queen) burrow in the ground to over-winter as do some caterpillars and many other beneficial crawly things.
And when you use the heavy bark mulch you cover up the ground and prevent them from burrowing. Not to mention that some mulches contain colors and chemicals.
5.) Start yourself a mini-meadow.
This is super simple…just stop mowing!
Set aside a little spot in your yard, it doesn’t have to be a huge area. Give it a pretty border if you like and give it time. You will be amazed at what grows…who knows, you could have lots of Goldenrod, Ironweed, or even Native Grasses already there and you didn’t know it.
Don’t think you can’t ever mow your meadow because you can if you like and depending on what you planted or what was there naturally it may be of benefit. But I would not mow it more than once a year and I would do it at the end of summer.
Or don’t hesitate to just leave a spot untouched for a year or two or forever and see what unfolds for you.
What you will discover when you let a little wild in, is nothing short of beautiful and amazing. The wildlife and the music that is created will make you want to grab a book and pull up a chair.
I did this, on a larger scale for the first time this year and I find myself standing next to the meadow just watching and listening…it’s like a little refuge. One thing I noticed the most was dragon flys.
Some other things you can do to help
Leave the Dandelions in your yard if you can, or at least until after they bloom. Dandelions are one of the first food sources for pollinators. The same goes for the Clover, leave it as well….the Pollinators will thank you!
Don’t forget to provide some water, in a shallow dish of some sort and fill it with rocks so that the bees and things can get out. And if you do provide water and have outdoor cats, be sure and place the water in a way that they cannot ambush unsuspecting wildlife.
So, this is your excuse to not clean the garden. Your pollinators need the “Messy” to survive. They need you to leave them the leaves, the stems, the sticks, the “whatever” nature has left behind.
I would love to hear from you…leave a comment if you already have a pollinator garden or meadow, or revisit to let me know how your new pollinator garden or meadow is coming along.