Garden Cleanup

Photo: Ken Gingerich / mid Rio Grande Times

As ecological science has evolved, our understanding of how best to clean up gardens has changed. Diseased plants get removed, but instead of tidying up all the leaf fall and dead plants in Fall, we consider what insects and soil microbes need during the winter. It turns out that they survive better if leaves and dead stalks are left in place. For example, native bees hide out in places like hollow stems. Breaking off hollow sunflowers stems will give them winter shelter. Butterflies in all stages of their life cycle nestle down in leaf piles or hang onto dead plant stems. Ladybugs hibernate in bark and leaf piles. Birds search through leaf litter for bugs and spiders and love to find flower stalks with seeds.  Once Spring temperatures get to 50 degrees for a week, the winter residents will start leaving. Then it’s time to clean up your garden!