If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
It is that time of the year when gardeners are over the tasks of gardening and considering clean-up and preparing the garden for next year.
Gardeners should consider how to best clean up the garden and help the pollinators and the garden at the same time. First question: What is a pollinator? According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, “Pollinators are animals and insects that distribute pollen to fertilize plants. Animal pollinators include Ruby-throated hummingbirds, bats, and rodents. Common insects that pollinate plants are butterflies, moths, bees, flies, and beetles.” These pollinators do not pollinate on purpose but are after the sweet nectar that plants produce. They land on the plants, get the nectar, and get pollen on them at the same time. They go to the next flower, distribute the pollen, and fertilize the plant. Pollinators produce over $10 billion in economic value annually in the US. With pollinators being so important for many reasons, they need to be considered in cleaning up the garden.
If you are aware of native pollinators like ground-nesting bumble bees and beetles you should be planting native flowers like Joe Pye Weed, Asters and of course milkweed for the Monarchs. These flowers can be mixed with a vegetable garden and draw pollinators to pollinate your vegetables and flowers.
This is a win-win situation. With this in mind, you should do the following for fall clean up.
1. Dispose of all diseased plants and put in the garbage, not in a compost pile.
2. Leave the leaves. This provides for many butterflies and moths to overwinter.
3. Leave the stems so the pollinators can be protected in the stems. Many bees, like mason bees, lay their eggs in the stems to overwinter and hatch when the weather turns warmer.
4. Leave grasses and sunflowers and flower heads to provide seeds for birds and wildlife during the winter.
5. Make a brush pile for protection of wildlife during the cold winter days. I used to have many rabbits in my brush pile.
Now that you have the pollinators taken care of let us consider what to do for your vegetable garden. The first thing you should do is take an inventory of your flower and vegetable garden. Note what did well and what did not do so well. Also sketch out where all your flowers and vegetable are located. I use graph paper and label where everything is located by section using assorted colors for different sections. This way you have a record of where all the vegetables and flowers are located and can rotate crops to cut down on diseases.
You then need to check for diseases, if any of the vegetables and flowers have disease you need to dig them up and throw them away so the disease will not spread. Put any of the healthy debris in a compost pile. Next label the variety of the planet you planted in a specific area and note how well it did. If not so good, maybe consider a different variety or a different location.
Cut down any herbaceous plant that is 3 feet tall so the snow and wind will not break them. Dig up any sensitive cold weather bulbs like dahlias and canna lilies. Get your hardy bulbs planted like daffodils, tulips, etc.
Fall clean-up is hard work but is necessary so that you can maintain a healthy garden. This way you can start fresh in the spring to plant your vegetables and flowers next year. One thing about fall, it should be cooler so that you do not have to be so hot sweaty like you were when working out in your garden in the summer months.
University of Illinois Extension:
Fall Garden Clean Up With Pollinators And Other Wildlife In Mind. Ken Johnson.
Fall Garden Clean-Up Lays Groundwork For A Successful Spring. Martha Smith.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources: