By now, fall garden cleanup is well underway. By November, the spent foliage will be cut down and cleared off, and the raked leaves will be removed.
But if you want to help our decimated bird populations, leave some shelter for the insects in your garden.
The decline of insects that birds need to feed their young is one of the main factors fueling their alarming decrease. Finishing your garden cleanup in the spring versus doing it all in the fall will help the insect population survive to nourish birds.
Vital pollinators, including native bees, overwinter in our gardens. They burrow under leaves or take shelter in the stems of cut-back plants. If you delay your cleanup until there are several 50 degree days in the spring, overwintering pollinators will wake up and move on to fulfill their important roles.
The new rallying cry is: “Leave the leaves.” Rake back some under and around the trees as mulch, and use leaves as mulch on your flower beds. Leave a pile at the edge of your property where they won’t be noticed. They can also be added to your compost heap as a valuable “brown” material.
Seed heads left on dried flowering plants provide a smörgåsbord for both winter residents and migratory birds, including finches, sparrows, blackbirds, chickadees, nuthatches, jays, buntings and grosbeaks. Don’t cut back and discard or compost the following plants until the spring: goldenrod, asters, coneflowers, sunflowers, coreopsis and black-eyed Susans, as their seeds also feed the birds.
Birds also rely on the small fruits remaining on shrubs and trees. Also, consider leaving a brush pile on your property in some tucked-away location, so that birds can take shelter in it during winter storms or cold nights.
These are small steps to take that can make a major difference for birds, pollinators and other insects.
Westhampton Garden Club
One fine body…