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Northeast Regional Reports

(Don’t) Put the Garden to Bed for the Season

Allow your faded fall garden to provide shelter and food for insects and birds this winter

Brown-eyed Susan seed heads in a garden full of winter interest. Photo: Kristin Green

Most of us were taught to get a jump on spring by putting the garden “to bed” in the fall. We’re compelled to cut every perennial down to the ground, yank annuals out by their roots, and rake leaves off beds and lawns. It turns out that for many of us tidiness is overrated, and most of the preseason prep can—and should—wait until spring.

Japanese anemone seedheads
Japanese anemone seed heads catch the light in a fall garden. Photo: Kristin Green

Traditional methods are changing because our priorities have changed: aesthetics are tied to a higher purpose. Gardens, as carefully designed, maintained, and floriferous as they may be, are also living ecosystems, providing habitat and sustenance to all manner of wildlife. Many gardeners have become naturalists and stewards, more likely to measure success by the number of species of pollinators buzzing around their combinations than by how great those plants…

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