Spring Yard Clean-up – leave some for the bees

The first weekend of Spring is here, finally!  I am sure you are ready to get back into the yard and start preparing for this season of gardening, but wait a minute, there is a RIGHT and WRONG way to do spring yard clean-up!

Your garden is not only a space for you to enjoy, it is a habitat for insects and birds (and maybe snakes and frogs and who knows who else). The following are a few Spring garden clean-up tips that encourage habitat preservation for these beneficial critters.

First off, yard clean-up should always be left for Spring.  Removing stems and leaves in the fall destroys habitat and eliminates hibernating insects. You aren’t being lazy, you are being a good neighbour to the other critters that live along side you. You can read more about Fall clean-up here

Don’t cut and toss just yet:

Our pollinators and beneficial insects are hibernating in your backyard. Tiny native bees and other friends are sleeping in the hollow plant stems waiting to emerge when the time is right.  Butterflies are snug in their cocoons, lady bugs are sleeping under leaves. Cutting down and tossing last season’s plant debris means you are also tossing THIS season’s pollinators and beneficial insects before they have a chance to emerge. 

Carefully collect debris:

Wait as long as possible to do your spring garden clean up.  This means waiting until the daytime temps are consistently above 10C.  Once it is warm enough to start tidying the yard do so carefully.  If you have small children this is a great opportunity to teach them about the benefits of all the critters in the garden and make a game of spotting cocoons or newly emerging lady bugs. 

Resist the urge to dump the leaves and other debris in plastic garbage bags.  You should have one area of your yard that is a designated leaf pile.  This can be a permanent compost pile or temporary if you really must bin it all up at some point. Some gardeners prefer to do the “chop and drop” method where you leave seems on the ground to compost in the garden bed.  New growth will quickly cover this up and you are enriching your soil the way nature intended.

Prune with caution: 

Cutting back some dead branches is high on the list of garden chores so as you go about this take a little time to ensure you are not also cutting tiny cocoons.  Stack these branches loosely in you compost/leaf pile to be dealt with later in the season. 

Hold off on the mulch:

Mulching is a great way to conserve moisture in the garden and we are huge fans of this, however early spring is not the best time to get this task accomplished. 

So many beneficial insects and pollinators overwintering in your backyard in tiny burrows as eggs or hibernating adults. We NEED these creepy crawlies.  it is important to hold off on this chore until the soil is dry and the weather is consistently warm. *Make a habit of tossing dead leaves into the hedge rows or tree lines in the Fall as natural mulch and insect habitat.

Leave the lawn:

Dethatching and rolling the lawn are outdated practices. Rolling compacts the soil and makes the lawn worse, rather than improving anything.  Healthy lawn has thatch, it protects the roots and keeps them cooler in summer. Doing anything with your lawn in the early spring, while the ground underneath is wet, compacts the soil and makes it more difficult for the grass to grow.  Leave the lawn for now.

Take your time:

In Saskatchewan we still have nearly 2 months until it will be warm enough to transplant annual and vegetable seedlings. I know you are eager to get outside and do some garden work so take this time to clean up your pots, wash the patio furniture, sweep the walks etc.  

A PROPER spring garden clean up should NOT be a destructive process. By taking your time and doing it right, you and your garden can benefit from a healthy population of pest-munching beneficial insects and pollinators. 

Do YOUR part to Save Our Pollinators.

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