Leave the Leaves – Less work for you. Better for nature!

Preparing our gardens for winter

Our friends at Carolinian Canada recently wrote to us identifying what to do to prepare our gardens for winter. Their advice?

Let nature do the work. 

  • Leave fallen leaves (and dead flowers): The leaves of native trees such as maples, oaks, cherry and Virginia creeper enrich the soil as they decompose, helping support a living network of micro-organisms. Dried flowers and grass stalks are natural bird feeders and add visual interest to your winter garden. 
  • Create habitat : A thick layer of leaves and twigs create an insulating blanket that protects the roots of perennials and helps fireflies and other insects survive the winter. Don’t be tempted to add other organic matter such as grass clippings, prunings or compost – it will drastically decrease the quality of this cozy habitat. 
  • Invest in next year’s garden: Collect a small amount of seed (less than 10 percent) from flowers and grasses that you know grow locally, such as purple or yellow coneflower, big or little bluestem, milkweed species, New England aster or hoary mountain mint. When you collect seeds, store them in paper envelopes, not tightly sealed. Or, you could donate to, or get seed from, the North American Native Plants Society.   

More resources about garden cleanup – Don’t do it. Allow nature to thrive:

Savvy Gardening – Six Reasons to Not Clean up the Garden this fall

The Suburban – Seven good reasons not to clean up the garden

Fall Cleanup advice from Garden Fundamentals