KEEP TARRYTOWN BEAUTIFUL:
FALL GARDEN CARE FOR POLLINATORS
Gardens are alive year-round.
By Mai Mai Margules
As the vibrant blooms of summer fade, fall ushers in a new cycle in the life of pollinators and new “non-duties” for us in caring for our gardens and the wildlife that dwells therein. For wildlife to survive the winter months we need to leave our gardens messy, benign neglect is our operating principle.
The traditional fall cleanup routine, clearcutting all plant material, blowing all leaves and twigs out of the yard etc., destroys the winter habitat for wildlife. It’s the equivalent of someone taking a wrecking ball to our home just as winter begins.
Beneficial insects need plants year-round to survive. Plants provide nectar in the warm months; in fall insects lay eggs on host plants to ensure reproductive survival.
Other pollinators actually overwinter as a chrysalis such as swallowtail and cabbage white butterflies or hawk moths. Viceroy butterflies, meadow fritillary and others remain caterpillars, hibernating amongst vegetation, rolled-up leaves or seed pods.
Native bees, such as bumblebees, may bury into the ground or hide in hollow stems of plants or stands of ornamental grass. Messy areas such as brush piles, leaf litter, and tall grasses all provide cover and protection for ground dwelling bees.
If you have a lawn consider mulching dried leaves. This requires that you mow with a mulching mower. The shredded leaves will decompose and act as a natural fertilizer and weed control. They will filter through the grass and disappear from sight, a far better practice than bagging and carting off to landfills.
If mulching is not possible move some leaves to peripheral areas to create untidy areas for wildlife.
Did you know? Pollen, nectar and scent can be lost in the cultivation process of modern hybrids. Choose heirloom varieties instead! Your pollinators will thank you.
For our plant beds leaves form a natural mulch, protect the plants in winter, conserve water, and enrich the soil. Nothing could be easier; just leave the leaves.
Now that we’re liberated from the chore of fall cleanup we can plot ahead with spring in mind. This fall try seeding your lawn or other areas with clover. Clover puts nitrogen back in the soil and is a welcome food source for early emerging bees. Also leave space for dandelions, they are a crucial food source for early bees and other pollinators.
Fall is a great time for planting native plants and shrubs. Live plants are ideally planted 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost. Hyssop, liatris, cardinal flower, agastache, sedum, asters are a few that I have successfully planted in the fall.
Check with our local garden centers that sell native plants and ask for advice on fall planting. It gives us and the pollinators a lot to look forward to!
Below is a link to a list of native plants, shrubs and trees. Also check the National Audubon website, WCC Native Plant Center and Pollinator Pathways sites for more info and direction on native landscaping.