Fall is a time when the garden and yard finishes off its harvest and begins to prepare for a season of sleep. As caretakers we begin to rake and clip back plants to clean things up and put the gardens and flower beds to bed for winter. This ritual of annual cleanup is actually counterproductive to the wild life that may live in our yards. We are removing a major source of food and shelter. This does not mean you have to abandon your usual autumn chores, but there are a few things you can keep in mind that will help your furry, feathered and slithery friends.
Skip the Bag and Mulch
Leaves and grass clippings make great mulch for your garden and flower beds. Apply about two to three inches of mulch around the yard. In addition to providing some shelter for wildlife, this also gives your perianal plants and vegetable beds some nutrients. You can also create a brush pile if you can spare a corner of your yard. Stray branches, twigs and leaves provide nesting materials for squirrels, ground birds, rabbits and hibernating insects and amphibians. You can compost these in the spring for your garden soil.
Put Down The Clippers
Hold off clipping back all the flowers and seed heads. These can provide birds and critters with some food through the fall and into winter. Flowers such as cone-flowers, sunflowers and marigolds are loved by the wildlife.
Provide Food and Water Sources
In bird baths or shallow basins, float a tennis ball to prevent freezing. If possible change out the water during the winter months. Heated bird baths are also available if you want to invest to keep your feathered guests happy. Providing suet and a high protein seed mix in your bird feeders will help them find the calories needed to survive till spring.