Leave Your Fall Garden Alone

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Photo: Simon Annable (Shutterstock)

There’s a lot of information out there—including on this site—listing garden tasks to complete in a particular month, or ahead of a certain season. And while there are always jobs you can do now to make your life easier in the future, some gardening experts say that when it comes to a pre-winter cleanup, less is more. Here’s what to know.

The case for taking a hands-off approach to fall gardening

The reason for doing minimal fall gardening work is similar to the one behind No Mow May, and starting a “bee lawn”: Looking out for your local birds and pollinators. First, this is because some perennials’ seed heads are a source of food for bird over the winter.

And, as a whole, garden matter and leaf piles serve as a winter habitat for several species of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, Erin Buchholz, integrated pest management specialist for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum explains in an interview with the Star Tribune. Plus, some pollinators lay their eggs in hollow stems found in untended gardens.

Finally, the decomposing leaves act as an insulating natural mulch (that also happens to be free) that helps protect your plants from the cold. And when the leaves have broken down completely, they nourish your soil.

Gardening tasks you should still do this fall

Even if you’ve decided to take part in this lower-maintenance type of fall gardening, there are still a few things you need to do ahead of winter, according to Buchholz. They are:

  • Pull/remove any diseased annuals and perennials
  • Pull vegetables after they’ve stopped producing for the season (several varieties tend to be disease-prone)
  • Rake or blow leaves from other parts of your yard into your garden beds. Then, use your hose to throughly soak the leaves. (This will keep them from blowing away, and help hydrate the soil and everything else underneath them ahead of winter.)

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