Farmgate: The are benefits to being a lazy fall gardener – The Kingston Whig-Standard


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Author of the article: Angela Dorie Photo by Elenathewise /Getty Images/iStockphoto Having had our first real frost, for many gardeners, now is the time to grab the rake and pruners and hit the garden for a final fall cleanup. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. I won’t be joining you though, preferring to leave it for the spring. Much like farmers have discovered, there are many benefits to leaving the stems and roots of harvested crops on the land over winter, not the least of it being the addition of organic matter to the soil as it rots over the winter and allowing it to hold the soil in place when the winter winds blow. The gardening gurus decided years ago a covering of brown leaves and sticks over the winter is the best thing you can do for both your garden and nature. Perfection and neatness is pushed aside for a season in favour of being ecosystem conscience gardeners. Even the Canadian Wildlife Federation agrees. Do you love to see butterflies flittering among the flowers on a hot summer day? Have you ever gone out at night and seen moths doing the same? Do you sometimes feel that there are fewer and fewer of each in the garden? Well, don’t rake up your leaves this fall. The pupae of both butterflies and moths over-winter in dead and decaying leaves so by raking them up you dispose of not just the brown leaves, but future butterflies and moths too. Personally, I prefer to see the latter. More On This Topic Farmgate: Almost at the end of another growing season Farmgate: Thanks for buying Canadian, Walmart Farmgate: Buying Canadian products as important as ever Other wildlife using those dead leaves and stems for over-wintering or a winter food source are chipmunks, shrews, earthworms, box turtles, toads, and salamanders. I have seen notations that bumble bees have been seen to over-winter in dead leaves too. This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Article content In the spring, many species use dead leaf packs as a place to lay their eggs, including many beneficial garden insects. Leave the leaves and help a little creature. Another benefit of not raking up and disposing of leaves is that they help protect the roots of some plants and help keep moisture in the soil over the winter, which also helps many bushes and perennials. Also leaving stems and branches helps to catch and hold the snow and provide insulation for many dormant plants. Decaying leaves are a rich source of nitrogen and organic matter for beds and lawns. You know the bags of organic fertilizer you buy at a large cost every spring? The dead leaves provide that for free! We have found other benefits of not doing a fall cleanup in the garden. Our sweet williams have given us a lovely display every year from self-seeded plants. Our pots of portulaca, a colourful, easy care plant, have also done the same, even giving up enough seedlings to share with a friend. By leaving the dead plants in the fall and not working the soil, it allows them to drop their seeds and protect them over the winter. The following spring we don’t disturb the soil until we can identify the young seedlings emerging. Free plants, and colour for the garden. Another benefit has been finding very small fir, spruce, and pine seedlings in the undisturbed beds in the spring. One year we found a very small pin oak even though we don’t have oaks trees here. We put these small trees-to-be in pots where they are watered and kept for a couple of years until they are big enough to plant somewhere in the garden and survive. Free trees! Yes, there are benefits to being a lazy gardener— and knowing you are helping the ecosystem is a big one!
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