Hold your rake! Clearing out your garden can backfire–you are removing the building blocks of soil and harming if not destroying beneficial insects that found a safe place in your garden during the winter. You can learn more about some of these animals in this post: What’s in a Leaf Pile. Read the below photo tutorial to learn how to get your garden ready for spring and summer, but without destroying the beneficial animals that could be there. 2017 update: Having learned about cavity nesting bees from Heather Holm and Xerces Society, it’s important to keep some stems standing to provide places for them to nest and overwinter. You can trim some to 12-15″. in height. 2018 update: Keeping dead stems, particularly of tall plants, are a preferred perching spot for many birds (including hummingbirds!). Photos below.