Hooray! Fall has finally arrived and 2020 is nearly over. This means cooler temperatures and shorter days. Here in Columbus, we lose over an hour of day length in September alone and while this change signals the return of pumpkin spice lattes and woolen socks, it’s also a notice to nature that winter is quickly approaching. Birds and monarch butterflies are making their way south, flowers drop their petals and go to seed, and the trees replace the green of summer with the brilliant palette of fall. (Read more about Ohio’s fall colors here!)
Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or it’s something you picked up during The Great Quarantine, you might be thinking about cleaning up your garden to prepare for winter. Traditionally, that means cutting back the dead vegetation and discarding litter, but if you are interested in insect conservation then consider this: leave it alone and save the clean-up for spring!
Insects have their own version of hibernation (called diapause) to avoid the colder months and they’ll need a safe space to hunker down. This is where your garden can play a key role as a sanctuary for insects. Native bees will hide out in the dead stems of your flowers and grasses, lady beetles in the leaf litter, and caterpillars in the rolled leaves and seed pods; some insects even lay their next generation of eggs on the surface of the soil. Regardless of their method, all of them rely on standing vegetation and fallen litter as a barrier from the freezing temperatures and dry winds. But if you’re more into birds, know that nearly two dozen species like the Northern Cardinal overwinter here in Columbus and they rely on this vital supply of “hibernating” insects to make it through the winter.
So, do the insects, birds, and yourself a favor and leave your garden to nature. Then kick back with your pumpkin spice latte and enjoy the fact that come spring, you will have more pollinators and beneficial insects than before!
For Further Reading:
Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard and Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy
Grow Native: Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden by Lynn M. Steiner