4 Simple Ways to Protect Pollinators in Fall

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Give The Pollinators A Home!

Put a pause on your fall cleanup!

Whether you’ve carefully selected plants for your garden for pollinators to enjoy or you just happen to see them float and flutter by your garden throughout the summer, it’s no doubt that having pollinators around brings your garden to life. But what happens to our pollinators once the weather cools? More often than not, many of our pollinators remain in our gardens long after you stop seeing them appear each day. By preparing your garden a certain way each fall, you’ll help them survive the cooler months and return to your landscape once again.

Help Pollinators Survive Winter And Return Next Year With These 4 Easy Tips

Illustration of a hand putting a small house over a butterfly that is sitting on a leaf

1. Only Mulch Where Needed

Save the bees!

While mulching is often encouraged to protect plant roots, we urge you to leave some areas of your garden bare this season to help bees who find their winter homes underground. You don’t need to forgo mulching entirely, only spread mulch in areas where it’s an absolute necessity. Bees often burrow in the ground as the weather starts to cool to make shelter and stay warm. Mulch often prevents this process.

2. Avoid Cutting Back Native Plant Stems

Many bees make their nests in the hollow stems of native plants. By saving that step for spring you help keep possible bees’ nests intact. Plus the stems in your garden add additional texture and interest to your fall and winter landscape!

3. Leave The Leaves In Your Flower Beds Alone

Protect butterflies and caterpillars!

Many butterflies overwinter in your garden. Adult butterflies hide and make a home in the leaf litter, some butterflies form chrysalises from spent plant material like leaves and stalks for hibernation and caterpillars typically roll themselves inside leaves and seed pods. Beyond butterflies, many other beneficial insects overwinter in the spent plant material in your garden whether it be as adults or eggs. Instead of cleaning up leaf litter, consider leaving it through spring to allow our butterflies and beetles to carry out their full lifecycle within your garden.

4. Avoid Cutting Back Seedheads And Foliage

The birds need your plants!

The seedheads on many of your favorite plants offer food to migrating birds and those that call your garden home. Some birds eat insects, and by leaving foliage and leaf matter alone, you allow birds to search for bugs living amongst the leaves, providing them with an essential food source to get through winter. Plus, the standing plant material offers screening and shelter for birds as they forage for food around your garden.

Save Your Clean Up Until Spring!

So when is the best time to clean up your garden?

Just before new growth begins is the perfect time to pick up your garden cleanup. Just be careful! While some insects will emerge before your spring cleanup has begun, there may be a few stragglers. To give them the best opportunity, lay the debris aside (along a fence is a great place!) so the bugs have a chance to emerge at their own pace.

Do you have plants with a disease or pest problem?

Go ahead and clean these up after the first frost in fall. In this case, it’s better to remove the afflicted material from your garden to prevent it from reoccurring next spring!

The best thing to do in the fall is to sit back and relax! There is no need to clean up seedheads or cut back stems; leave the leaf matter in flower beds alone too. The birds, butterflies, and more will thank you for saving your garden cleanup until spring.

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

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