Benefits of Late Garden Clearing

2013-03-26 — 16 Comments
This female House Finch is certainly thankful for her early spring snack in my tall standing sunflowers from last year!

This female House Finch is certainly thankful for her early spring snack in my tall standing sunflowers from last year!

I enjoy many benefits from cleaning up my garden in springtime, rather than in the autumn. Cutting away dead plant matter just in time to find tips of spring bulbs poking their brave heads through the barely thawed, frozen ground leaves plenty of seed-heads for birds to scavenge through to uncover meals of seeds.

In the early spring months of March and April when the ground around here is still frozen, I’ve seen Chickadees in the winter-dried Goldenrod and Echinacea seed-heads, and House Finches in the Sunflowers.

Plus the late cleanup works well for my personality: leaving the garden alone in autumn when the snows arrive and I’m sad to see the growing season end, and then in spring when I’m feeling recharged and enthused I can cut back the dead plant matter and be rewarded with evidence of new green growth coming.

For me, it’s a no-brainer ~ waiting until spring helps make it not only a more instantly rewarding chore, but the local birds get meals out of the standing seed-heads left from last summer. Also, the plants look great poking out through drifts of snow in mid-winter. There’s definitely a lot to be said for leaving plants standing to offer ‘winter interest’. It works for me, and for my neighbourhood songbirds too!

This female House Finch is enjoying a nutritious snack from these standing sunflowers left standing from last Autumn.

This female House Finch is enjoying a nutritious snack from these standing sunflowers left standing from last autumn.

Sharing the melodious song of a male House Finch, found on YouTube:

16 responses to Benefits of Late Garden Clearing

  1. 

    Keeping the songbirds singing sounds like a great idea to me! Thank you, Gina.
    Russ

  2. 

    Gina,
    I so agree! I just cleaned out my garden last weekend…so fun the see the first few green strawberry leaves. Had I cleaned it out last fall, I would have failed to notice the shoots of leaves coming up in the chard patch. I didn’t know they were biennials! In a couple more weeks, I’ll have fresh tarragon, chives and sage to pick. too.
    Happy gardening!
    Hugs,
    Cathy

    • 

      Hi Cathy! Isn’t is invigorating to find new green leaves as we clean up the early spring garden? How wonderful that you’ve discovered some strawberry leaves, and soon herbs – and even chard! How cool is that! I’ve been delighted with discovering that by not cleaning up in the fall I could get early (free!) Sweet Peas, Portulaca, Marigolds, Poppies, Sunflowers, and more – just from not clearing the parent plants in the fall. No one has ever thought something like Sweet Peas could reseed on their own to come back in my Zone 3 area – but I’ve experienced it for years!
      Thanks so very much, and Happy Gardening to you my friend! 🙂
      Hugs, Gina

  3. 

    Great post! Although I clean up some of the messier things and ones that seed too prolifically in autumn, I leave many things for their winter beauty and the protection they offer next year’s garden. Your post made me think of the small flocks of joyful birds that suddenly swarm the outdoor winter planters for their fruit in late winter/early spring. Such a delight to see and so highly entertaining for my giddy cats to watch out the window!

    • 

      Hello dear friend, and thanks for your wonderful comment! I laugh and think of how I like to call it ‘kitty TV’ for the cats to watch the bird’s antics from the window. Yes the plants that seed a bit too much need to be cleaned up earlier, but many are great for early spring feasting for the birds! Cheers! Gina

  4. 

    Gina! You and I think alike. My garden looks like a junkyard from November (when I last mow) and March (the next time I mow). We get no snow on the ground, just winter weeds, clover, brown branchy remains of perennials in the garden beds, brambly roses. Ugly UGLY is the word that comes to mind for the two-legged non-feathered variety.

    But while my neighbors pay big money to have their lawn crews pretty up their yards before and after the winter holidays, I put my money into tree-pruning instead. Instead, I get to enjoy the flocks of finches, chickadees, warblers, buntings, and other cutie-pies who forage for seeds around my house. It may not be winning yard of the month through the winter season, but my property is a hoppin’ extravaganza for all the feathered two-legged variety that happens by!!

    Yep. Just as the pecan tree pops its first leaf out at the end of March, so do I don my garden gear and start getting dirty. Spring Marathon is where it’s at. My birds AND my soil love me right back for my delayed gratification.

    Happy happy gardening, and love those little birdies. And love how you think. 🙂

    • 

      Hello dear Shannon! What a delightful comment. I cannot thank you enough, and my delay in replying is hopefully understood by you that I was lost in my garden (and my pile of gardening books and magazines!). I really must get back into a regular routine of blogging more consistently. This spring I am lost in daydreaming about all that will happen this growing season. Only my third summer in this home and there are perennials to relocate to better spots, and raised garden beds to be built and planted for even more veggies. The sad (and scary!) lean-to open ‘shed’ is being replaced by a proper one built by contractors met at a recent Home Show. I squeal with delight and thank my hubby with enthusiasm as if he’d bought us a trip to Hawaii. I’d really rather have my new 5′ x 12′ x 7′ tall shed to securely enclose my gardening paraphernalia than a trip anywhere! And in the warmer weather when we sit outside and dine alfresco, he thanks me! I’m thinking of you my gardening kindred spirit. And I want you to know I’m still weaning my men off meat slowly, and they’re not even noticing! Hugs, Gina

  5. 

    Waiting until spring also helps rejuvenate the soil. I wait until spring to remove growth from the previous year as well. Everything goes to the compost pile and is eventually worked back into the soil. Nice photos!

    • 

      That is so true! It really is all about rejuvenating the soil. Giving those plant-rich nutrients back. I’m proud to be a leaf-thief in the fall and every spring my soil shows its gratitude. 🙂 Thank you for your comment! Cheers, Gina

  6. 

    Beautiful, Gina. And although the garden at my current place is in its infancy, I can remember discovering the personalities of thyme (little big man), wooly lamb’s ear (the protector), and others coming out in the spring of my garden of years past. The temperaments DO seem to find expression in spring. Thanks for the lovely reminder. And the garden finches… just amazing. I’m pretty sure I was singing along at some point.

    • 

      Thank you Janice! I am so glad you enjoyed this post… and I love your sharing about ‘personalities’. I feel like I get to know each and every one of the plants in my garden, and all the little feathered characters that frequent it. The White-Capped Sparrows are adorable and I delight in those weeks every spring when they float through on their way more north. They look alert and intense with their little peaked caps and they scratch on the garden floor like chickens, looking for morsels. I laugh out loud with love, watching from the house windows, or silently if frozen still to watch closely from in the garden. Let’s hear it for Finches and native Sparrows and more, and we’ll sing along. 😀

  7. 

    Garden recycling! It’s perfect. Thinking of you, Gina, while babying my 4 tomato plants that come in each night until last frost (usually that’s tax day where I live). I’m going to name one after you in honor of your recycled finch food–last summer’s sunflowers. Here’s to preparing soil in spring. Hugs! Jamie

    • 

      My friend, your visits and delightful comments always brighten my heart! I love the idea of naming our tomato plants after some of our friends and I’m following suit. 🙂 I know the one named ‘Jamie’ will grow strong and healthy. Thank you so much dear heart. Happy hugs! Gina

  8. 

    Hi Gina–thanks for the follow! And thanks for this blog entry which just made me feel a lot better about waiting until this week to get serious about yard clean-up! (And, yes, the birds have loved it this way…)

    • 

      Yay! Another gardener who does late (or shall we say Early?) yard clearing. It just makes more sense on so many levels to do it in the spring. Mind you I am a pretty laid-back gardener, can you tell?
      Thanks for this great comment. Cheers! Gina

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