Preparing Your Yard for Fall? Consider Ways to Help the Wildlife Through Winter

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.

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Planting Cool Crops for the Fall Harvest

In August the garden is overflowing with the fruits of our labor all summer long, but it is also the perfect time to plant crops for a late Fall harvest…cool crops that will give you some fresh veggies before Winter takes over. The cooler weather will not produce as large of a crop, but will be plenty to keep things fresh. Here is a list of vegetables that you can be sown directly into the garden. Make certain to keep them damp and add a thin layer of compost on top to help feed your new crop. You will want to check your specific region for any special instructions…consult your local nursery or garden book:

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  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli (Transplants)
  • Brussels sprouts (Transplants)
  • Cabbage (Transplants)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (Transplants)
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Leeks (Transplants)
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Sit back and enjoy the end of Summer, knowing you have a lovely bounty ahead!

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Be Nice to the Bees | Buy Plants that Are Bee Friendly

Both Home Depot and Lowes are stepping up to help protect the bee population. Home Depot has required nurseries to label plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, and Lowe’s has made a commitment to phasing out sales of products that contain them.

What are neonicotinoids you ask?…Neonicotinoids are a new breed of insecticides that are chemically related to nicotine. Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse.  They are more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than other higher organisms, which is why they are attractive to deter insects. They have become popular because they are water soluble, which allows them to be applied to soil and be taken up by plants.

 

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So what is the danger?  New research points to to the impact on bees and other beneficial insects. The exposure in a plants pollen passes on a low level contamination. The exposure level does not normally kill bees directly, but is found to effect some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar and locate , and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.

When shopping for plants, ask question. Identify resources in your area that provide organic and non-neonic product selections.

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