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March in the Garden

Waiting on Spring Cleanups or Shhh…Baby Bugs Sleeping!

As gardeners, it can feel like a treat to have the type of March we are having this year. In my yard the birds are singing, tender iris shoots have broken through the ground and at the local library the forsythia is starting to bloom! No snow and mild temperatures make all of us want to start working in our yards. Unfortunately, starting our spring cleanups too early can reducethe number of native pollinators and beneficial insects that help our gardens succeed naturally.

How does this happen?  When we rake away the leaves that gather underneath our shrubs during the winter and cut back the hollow stalks of perennials too early, we disturb the beneficial insects that overwinter there in various suspended stages of their lifecycles or diapause.  Diapause ends when the temperatures rise and daylight lengthens.  Cutting these stalks and raking the leaves (and then burning them or carting them off to the dump)before we have consistent daytime temperatures of over 50 degrees, means we lose precious numbers of these helpful creatures, including butterflies, moths and native bees.  Not to mention fireflies!

If for some reason you do need to cut left over stems and stalks from last year’s perennials early, consider placing them gently on your compost pile or leaning them up against a tree.  And if you can’t resist going out to rake the left over leaves in your beds until the days lengthen, is there one area you could set aside to help preserve these sleeping babies?  I know your garden will thank you!

Looking forward to longer and warmer days,

Beth

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