The majority of people use the fall as a time to cutback dormant plants. I think this is partly because it’s standard practice and partly because yards aren’t usually planted in a four-season approach. But if you want to have a more sustainable and ecological property, it’s a practice you might consider changing. It’s much better to wait to until mid to late-March to cutback dormant growth from the previous season. This one simple act initiates a multitude of beneficial and environmentally sound aspects from protecting wildlife to protecting your soil to saving you money. However, it also means you will need to rethink how you have planted your beds. It might mean adding a few plants to give your space more character for wintery months.
You’ve Got the Look
Death! It is a fact of life. As soon as the weather gets cold all of your beautiful plants start to turn brown and look like they are dying. But they aren’t. The only things that really die are the leafy green leaves and colorful pellets. The roots of your plants are very much alive and many continue to grow even as the rest of the plant looks kaput. This stasis can be a chance to add an unique quality to your garden. It only takes a four-season mentality to do that. Check out this blog for info on that.
Four-season plantings means giving your space a feeling of abundance in the cold months of winter. It also encourages you to not cutback the plants. Some of the benefits for waiting to cut everything back include providing shelter and food for wildlife, reducing (or eliminating) soil erosion from your yard, maintaining the health and richness of your soil and providing protection from the elements to perennials that are semi-evergreen during the coldest times of the year.
The Life within Death
Lots of perennials are very much semi-evergreen. When you clear away the old growth from last year, you will find many plants have green leaves just below the mess. The images below shows both Achilles and a variety daisy still green.
The image below shows the cleanup about the halfway point of the cleaning. You can see in comparison to the start that the growth from last year took up a big chunk of space.
During the cleanup, I found my little army of Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flowers, pictured below). These flower are stunning in bloom. I planted nearly 30 around a gutter in my front yard.
After a Blowout
The image below is after the full cleanup. I took a leaf blower to the space to get everything out.
The next step in rebirthing the garden is to wait. Cleaning it out now means that some of the earliest growth has space to expand, but it is too early to add seed or plants. The next week or so shows temperatures as low as 28 degrees…far too cold for new plantings to survive. I will have to wait until well into April to add any new items. But by then, all of the go-getters of the garden will have sprung to life and any new stuff will be welcomed with open arms.