March 28, 2023

McKenzielee Blog

Wicked Clever House Experts

Tips for getting the lawn and garden ready for winter

3 min read

It is finally time to finish cleaning up the lawn, flower and shrub beds and other planting areas to get them ready for winter. 

The first frost in Columbus arrived last  week, albeit a few weeks later than the average date of first fall frost, and leaves have started to accelerate their descent to the ground. These two events are phenological signals to gardeners that it’s time to complete the annual fall cleanup of leaves and spent annual and perennial plants.

Fall is an important time in lawn and landscape maintenance, as many insect and disease problems encountered during the current growing season may survive until next season on or in plant debris. Cultural practices completed before winter arrives can ensure a healthier landscape next spring, but these same practices can also have a detrimental effect on beneficial insects, birds and the environment. 

We offer tips for whether to remove leaves from the lawn and garden.

Ecologically competent gardeners understand the need to strike a balance between a fall cleanup, which results in a landscape resembling the tidiness of the barren surface of the moon, and one that resembles the wildness of a jungle singed by a hard freeze.

Leave the leaves on the ground?

There is an ecological benefit to leaving some leaves on the ground in shrub, annual and perennial plant beds, as the leaves will add some nutrients and organic matter to the soil as they decompose this winter. A layer of leaves will also help moderate soil temperatures encouraging root growth of newly planted perennials and shrubs, and preventing soil heaving caused by cycles of freezing and thawing. 

Mike Hogan

Shallow layers of fallen leaves can also provide winter habitat for insects. Unlike the monarch butterfly, which migrates to overwinter in Mexico and California, many butterflies and insects — including some species of bees — overwinter as eggs, caterpillars, pupae or adults in and around the garden among plant debris and fallen leaves.

By leaving a layer of leaves in planting beds, you will be providing winter cover for spiders, slugs, worms, beetles, millipedes, mites and other organisms that provide food for chipmunks, turtles, birds and amphibians.

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