Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Garden Cleanup

If you live somewhere that is experiencing fall weather, you may be getting the last of your garden cleanup done before winter sets in.

lots of dead plant material here!
Creating a sustainable system in our gardens means allowing beneficial insects to create a home there. One way is by being mindful of habitat as you clean your garden. Lots of insects overwinter in our gardens without us realizing it, and the more habitat we provide, the greater the diversity of insects we will have acting as garden allies.

Several months ago I talked about bumble bees and what we can do to help them. There are other insects we can help too, like lady bugs (lady beetles), green lacewings, ground beetles, and solitary ground dwelling bees.

First, if you have dead or dying trees, unless they are a hazard (or infested with an invasive species) leave them standing. Many insects use them as a home- including beetles, lady bugs and bees.

Second, rock piles are excellent places for garden allies to overwinter. I purposely created one and continually add to it to create habitat for insects and/or snakes.

resident snake hiding from my camera
Third, caneberries like elderberry have a pithy center. When pruning, don't cut back all the way so bees can excavate the pith and use it for shelter.

elderberry with pith dug out by solitary bee
Fourth, leave some leaves! There are plenty of insects that will hibernate under a pile of leaves, so keep a few areas of the garden a little "messy".

Finally, if there are bare patches of dry soil in sunny areas, instead of reseeding the grass or mulching over it, let them stay bare. I'm not talking about huge areas that are in danger of eroding, I really mean patches. These are often used by ground dwelling bees as nest sites.

these bare spots are perfect sites for bees to create nests

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