Putting the Garden to Bed–Wild Ones Style

Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Clean up, Fall clean up, Maintenance.

Putting the Garden to Bed–Wild Ones Style

The best time to get ready for next year is now. 

1.Get rid of any invasives–like this Vinca that keeps trying to make its way into my woodland garden.  It forms a thick evergreen mat and would love to colonize my woodland garden.

Vinca, an aggressive non-native groundcover, would choke out my woodland flowers. It needs a periodic pulling.












2.As you remove some of these plants, you might bring up hibernating insects like this ladybug and spider. Tuck them back in the best you can, so they can do their good work next year. 

Hibernating spider. It was put in a safer place with soil and leaves.

Ladybug hibernating.











3. Put some leaves around your plants.  Skip mechanically shredding leaves because whole leaves are a better food source for soil organisms. Animal shredders like sowbugs and earthworms do the work of breaking large pieces up. Fungi decompose the woodier bits, which is good because you want to feed your fungi. Fungi form a symbiotic relationship with your plants; they deliver nutrients, water, and even pathogen protection to the plants’ roots while the plant delivers carbohydrates to the fungi. Shredded leaves are eaten up by bacteria very quickly, which means shredders and fungi don’t get a food source. All of the plant material will add organic matter, helping the soil percolate water and hold onto it.  The  more organic matter, the better the water holding capacity.  

Plaintain Sedge seedling uncovered from the removal of Vnca. It has some room to grow and a protective blanket of leaves.

1st year native Delphiniums put to bed under some leaves.

Leaf mulch for a Bladdernut sapling.

4.Enjoy the beauty of the plants (and realize that you are feeding many animals though letting everything stay standing.  If you do need to trim down anything, you can place stems at the base of your plants.  The stems will be invisible and will provide habitat and contribute to soil formation).  

We created a sign to help communicate why we are allowing gardens to stand through the winter. Please feel free to download, print, and hang in your garden. It’s a PDF: No Fall Clean Up                                  PNG: 

That’s it!  Have fun and enjoy this special time. 


Grey Goldenrod seedheads capture the afternoon light.



A native aster’s red leaves and glowing seedheads are stunning.

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