December 22, 2010


I never quite seem to finish my fall cleanup in the garden. One thing leads to another, and suddenly there is snow on the ground with broken stems and brown leaves poking through. I used to feel guilty about it, but a number of years ago I came to embrace the winter garden, even throwing some Christmas lights on a bean trellis that never made it into the barn for the winter!

Of course, you should remove any foliage that has scabs, fungus or other evidence of disease in the autumn. But leave some of the rest so that birds have a place to forage for food, and you will enjoy a winter of bird watching as part of the bargain.

Beneficial insects such as ground beetles, centipedes, millipedes, pill bugs and spiders will also crawl inside leaf piles or dead stalks in order to survive the cold, wet months. Garden spiders, which catch mosquitoes and other harmful insects, often overwinter as eggs. Keep them around by providing safe hiding places for their egg sacks. All of these creatures are our gardening partners, breaking down and adding organics to the soil.

Best of all, I love the architectural quality of the brown, dry stalks, and they look great covered in frost or spider webs.

When you finally cut everything back in spring, be sure to leave them in a stack until May to allow all of the overwintering insects to emerge. I love having a garden, and it has its own special charm in the winter months.



Posted by: Liz Nealon

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