|Autumn Leaves - by Norma Boeckler.|
They feed the soil creatures - for free.
Jessical Walliser wrote a column on the garden in autumn, which reminded me to mention a few ideas early. Some of us are already planning for next year.
The most important part of autumn is NOT cleaning up the garden. Everything should be left alone to let the beneficial insects over-winter in the debris. Hollow plant stems are good locations for wild bees and other insects. Some use the dead leaves for cover and warmth, too. When I used to have forests of sunflowers, I left all the stems intact for insects and birds. My mother wanted me to remove the mess. I said, "What will the birds perch on when the snow has fallen? They like to have an elevated place for safety and food spotting." She said, "I never thought of that."
Large annual plants like a sunflowers also have a large root system to rot into the ground over the winter. Rotting organic material is good for the soil, food for various creatures, and by creating a food magnet, also a good place for birds to harvest for their needs, in winter and early spring.
|Apple Tree by Norma Boeckler.|
Fruit trees increase their production when mulched with leaves all winter.
We will finish the cardboard layer of three gardening areas before the leaves begin to fall:
- Hosta Garden - formerly The Three Sisters, which the squirrels treated as their main food source.
- The Bird Feeding and Butterfly Zone. Some see that as a contradiction, but we have bird feeders surrounded by Butterfly Bush with Bee Balms also planted. I want to subdue the weeds in-between
- The Wild Garden, which could use a little less wild. I know tall grass is good for many beneficial insects, but cardboard and leaves will tame the area
The Hosta Garden is now covered and the cardboard weighed down so we do not share our cardboard with the neighborhood during windstorms. Today is another cardboard delivery, which will modify the bird and butterfly area. There the red Bee Balms spread like crazy and also went quite wobbly, surrounded by tall grass weeds. I decided to stick to purple BeeBalms called Monarda.
|Cardboard is free, easy to lay, and blocks weed growth|
very well. The covering of leaves and pine needles will make it
a giant feeding zone and also more attractive.
Cardboard Plus Leaves
Newspapers work well for the first layer of mulching, but they do not cover much and want to fly away rather than stay in place while laying them down.
Wood mulch looks great, but the cost adds up. In the backyard gardens we are using only leaves now. They also look good and mat down well for the winter. In the late spring they are decomposed into the ground by rain, earthworms, mites, and other soil creatures.
The extensive leaf layer serves three purposes:
- The overwintering beneficial insects will burst into life in the spring and provide protection against pests, food for birds.
- Leaves piled around roses will insulate them from the cold and drying winter winds.
- The leaves and cardboard will become part of the soil over time and feed God's creatures. I see a pound of organic matter as a pound of organic fertilizer, whether the material is manure, grasses, weeds, leaves, cardboard, or newsprint.
|Sharon Lovejoy says, "Let the birds eat the seeds|
from the plants that bloomed" - like these coneflowers.