Sep 19, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2017

Dear Birdsquatch: Fall Gardening

American goldfinch in winter plumage. Photo by A. Reago & C. McClarren, Wikimedia.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

Our vegetable and flower gardens are dormant this time of year, long after the growing season has petered out, I'd like to clean them out so the yard doesn't look so unkempt. I've also heard that cleaning out the dead plant matter from your garden reduces the chances of pests overwintering and emerging to attack the plants in the spring. My husband swears that he read an answer by you in this publication that stated it was best to leave the garden fallow all winter long. I think that my husband is just looking to avoid doing the clean up work. He's not lazy, but he's close to it!

—Christine T., Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin

Dear Christine,

Your husband is not lazy at all. He's merely following the peerless advice of a world-class, wildlife-gardening authority (he said, humbly). Leaving your garden fallow over the winter months means there's both cover for your birds and a source of seeds and insects as well. Given your northerly location, I doubt there would be a lot of insect pests that would survive over winter. But there would be a lot of insect goodies for the sparrows, chickadees, titmice, finches, juncos, wrens, and kinglets to find as they forage through your messy winter garden. I say leave it lay until spring. That's when you can get the hubby out of his seasonal torpor to rake the dead plant material into a pile and burn it. Then he can spread the ashes around the garden before tilling it. And you have my permission to sit and watch him do it, in a supervisory role. I suggest a glass of pinot grigio—goes great with spring garden reclamation observation.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.


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