Nature Notes 6 – Winter gardening for birds and pollinators

Honey bees visit late-blooming Douglas asters

Welcome to EMSWCD’s Nature Notes series! Nature Notes shares small moments and interesting observations from our property, as well as related natural history tidbits, on a weekly to monthly basis.

October 15th, 2018

Winter Gardening for Birds and Pollinators

The goldenrod has gone to seed, and honeybees are scouring the last of the fall asters. Here at EMSWCD, we employ a few simple practices to reduce the fall garden work and help birds and pollinators survive the winter. Read on to learn what you can do!

Did you know…

  • Birds feed on seeds and insects through the winter. In the spring they will need lots of insects to feed their young. You can help birds by leaving lots of habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects to shelter safely through the winter.
  • Adult butterflies, ladybugs, and many other beneficial insects overwinter in rock crevices, under bark, and in leaf litter. They lay their eggs in stems, on twigs, and under leaves. Pollinators and their larvae shelter in hollow standing stalks, and beetles take refuge in clumping grasses.
  • A natural winter garden is a healthy pollinator hotel!

What can you do?

  • Leave the leaves: Wherever you can, leave the leaf litter where it falls. Many adult and juvenile insects need it for shelter through the winter. Learn more about the benefits of leaf litter in this blog from The Xerces Society.
  • Leave the seeds: Finches, sparrows, juncos, chickadees, and many other birds will feed on the seeds of sunflowers, echinacea, black-eyed Susans, and other flowers through the winter.
  • Leave the stalks: Standing stalks are winter pollinator shelters, so leave them standing if you can. If you need to trim them, bundle them gently and store them upright out of the weather until you start seeing flying insects again in the spring (around the end of February or early March).
  • Rake, don’t blow: Wherever leaves need to be cleared, rake them instead of using a leaf blower. In addition to causing air and noise pollution, leaf blowers compact and dry out the soil surface, harming soil organisms and plants.