Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Chris Gass
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Fall cleanup time

The Green Guy

 

October 10, 2019



The leaves are rapidly changing colors and falling just as fast. With that comes the sign of the season to start fall cleanup, the sometimes behemoth task of raking up piles of leaves, giving the grass one last cut, sweeping away the seemingly endless amounts of shedding debris or remnants of shells by voracious squirrels, and the tidying up of the flower beds.

Now of course, such “cleaning” is not really built out of necessity but a desire for aesthetic pleasure rooted in organization and reducing clutter. However, our wishes are not always in line with those of nature and can in turn cause us more work while being an expense to an intended function. In this case, I’m looking to shine a light on the often faulty way we “clean” our garden beds and rob of critical habitat for our pollinator friends. Hence, think of this as a how-to in doing pollinator friendly fall cleanup.

• Leave the stems: dead plant stalks are habitat for stem nesting bees and insects. In line with their name, these critters lay their eggs and raise their young within the generally hollow stems of deceased plants notable in Fall. In order to have adequate shelter, they need to have stems and one’s preferably over 18 inches in length.

• Keep some open space: just as some bees and bugs make their homes in stems, there are those that make their homes below the soil. These in turn are considered ground nesters and need to have access to the ground in order to make a home. In turn, leave some bare spots for them preferably underneath the overhang of plants like hostas.

• Leave the leaves: tagging along with the last point, ground nesting bees and bugs benefit from leaves in the garden which act as cover to their nests. Think of the leaves as a roof that provides cover from predators but also light insulation before the snow falls.

• Make bundles and piles: if leaving stems, leaves, and other debris is out of the question in your flower bed, make numerous piles and tuck them away and out of sight behind shrubbery or under evergreen canopies to maintain dwelling spaces.

• Consider native plants and bulbs in your flower bed; a bonus step that will take your garden to the next level of pollinator friendliness. Providing native plants offers the best benefit to our native bees and pollinators both throughout the entire snowless seasons. Providing adequate blooms, colors, food, and habitat resources, native plants are by design the best at meeting the needs of our bees and bugs.

In all, it only takes some small steps and changes to meet the standard of a pollinator friendly clean-up. Where many questions might linger, don’t hesitate to reach out for answers. Just as well, the U of M Extension Yard and Garden website is a treasure of a resource on this topic. Tidy up responsibly!

 

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