When Autumn arrives, thoughts turn to cleaning up the garden after the exuberance of summer growth. This does not need to be such a chore: there are ways to lighten your workload while working with nature. Especially if you have a larger property, you can leave perimeter areas more natural, and focus your efforts on keeping the areas by the house more manicured. It’s not necessary to clean up outside like you’re vacuuming your living room.
Before you start raking leaves, take a walk through your yard. Assess what is working well, and notice areas that you feel need improvement. Take a good look out of the windows of your home where you spend the most time. What do you see there? Does your garden need renovation, or perhaps simply adding a few shrubs or a pop of your favorite color will complete the look?
An important aspect of fall cleanup is getting rid of plants that are past their prime. If a plant isn’t thriving, and you can’t move it to a location that better suits its cultural needs, it’s time to let it go. This creates an opportunity for something new and better. Plan to remove any heavily diseased plants, but don’t put diseased plants in your compost pile. This is a good time to prune back large overgrown shrubs that may blow down in winter storms.
Autumn leaves are gorgeous, but what to do with them once they fall? Remove leaves from the sidewalk and your patio so they don’t get too slippery. A blower works great for this task, and is much easier than raking. If you have a lawn, remove leaves at least once a week. But don’t throw them away! Leaves make great compost. Put them in your compost pile and create free mulch for your garden. If you have too many leaves or larger leaves, shred them first using a mulching mower or blower and they will break down faster. You can leave some leaves in garden beds to insulate the plants, feed the soil, and prevent soil compaction from winter rains. Just don’t let layers of leaves get too thick, especially over the crown of plants which can smother them. Balance garden sanitation with leaving some material for wildlife and improving soil health.
Don’t clean up the garden too early. In general, it is better to leave perennials and grasses as they are through the winter. The forms and textures of many plants provide textural interest, and decorative seed heads and stems are natural food and shelter for wildlife. In addition to birds, many pollinators and other beneficial insects overwinter in the landscape. Ladybugs need a place to hibernate, and the larvae of butterflies and native ground-nesting bees need a home for the winter.
If you find yourself simply too busy to deal with garden cleanup, Blessing Landscapes can help you maintain your yard. If that sounds appealing, contact us to learn more from one of our experts.