Soon many of you will begin tidying up your borders for winter. Before you do; stop and think. Why are you doing it? Is it because you want it to look better? If you clear all the stems and flower heads away, what will you be left with? If it is an empty border with exposed soil then your garden is going to look bare, dark and void of life for the rest of winter. The soil will have lost any protection from the elements. Some of the soil will be washed away by hard rain while the crucially important plant nutrients will be leached down deeper, away from the root systems of the plants. What if you saved yourself a job and left it until spring? You would be left with flower heads full of seeds that the birds will feed on; structural stems used by spiders to spin their silky webs that will sparkle in the winter sun on a frosty morn; leaf litter that will harbour over-wintering insects allowing the thrushes and blackbirds to forage for food. Leaving the borders alone could actually provide you with so much more interest in the garden over winter. You just need to resist the urge to clear it all away.
If you must do some tidying in the garden then maybe you could gather up all that garden waste into a hidden corner. This would be a fantastic habitat for all sorts of beneficial animals in the garden. They may even come out on warmer days to feed on the slugs and other less garden friendly larvae that may be lurking in nooks and crannies waiting for the new shoots of spring to begin their annual devastation of your precious plants. Providing a home for frogs, toads and hedgehogs this year will help you keep these pest populations under control into the next growing season and beyond.
So cut back on the workload this year and look forward to the joys of winter frosts in the borders, while benefitting from all the little garden helpers that will assist in protecting you floral displays next summer!
For more information on ‘Giving Nature a Home’ in the garden, go to the RSPB website.