Did you know that you can increase the population of pollinators in your garden simply by avoiding your spring cleaning? We’ve talked about many approaches to pest prevention. Here is another one we can add to the list! At the end of the gardening season, leaving our spent garden beds a mess until spring can be the best thing for it!
Let's get started.
Pollinators & Pest-Eating Insects
It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but waiting until spring to clean your garden beds is the best thing for pollinators. Fallen leaves and yard debris act as a blanket for your soil after the growing season comes to a close. As the debris settles, hibernating pollinators will take refuge in the blanket and sleep there throughout the cold, harsh winters. This method of home building for pollinators allows them to breed for generations in your garden, which increases the biodiversity of your space! After generations of breeding, the pollinators in your garden will grow more resilient year after year. Lastly, providing a place for pollinators to hibernate will allow them to be your first line of defense as soon as they wake up in the spring! No need to attract any more to your garden.
Note: Be patient. The first day of spring on the calendar doesn't signal a garden clean-up day! Wait until your local temperature stays steadily above 50 degrees for 5-7 consecutive days! This ensures you will have a high pollinator count and a strong all-around ecosystem.
Your First Line Of Defense:
Females will produce Ootheca in the fall. This is the name of their egg sake. They can contain anywhere from 30-300 eggs. Talk about an army! Praying mantis are often found on branches booth woody and herbaceous (non-woody stems). They hibernate in the winter and emerge in the Spring. Their fast reflexes make them quick to capture pests like aphids, caterpillars, and any pest they can find.
Most butterflies hunker down for the winter and hibernate in all forms, even as adults! Caterpillars will roll into leaves under piles of garden debris, always close their spring food. As pupae, butterflies can be found under piles of garden debris. As adults, butterflies hibernate inside hollow trees or any crevices they can squeeze into-man made or nature-made.
America’s many species of native bees find any opportunity to borrow down to ride out the harsh winters. In trees, debris piles, under bark, in the mud; as egg or larvae, hollow stems. All bees emerge once the temperatures warm up enough for them to find food. Remember: bees find their food on the early blooms on what some gardeners mistake as weeds. Some of the first flowers to come out are dandelions and fruit tree buds. These food sources are crucial to the survival of overwintered native bees.
Do you know what a ladybug nymph looks like? They look like something out of a garden horror book! Commit this one to memory because he’s on your team! Grown-up ladybugs can consume thousands of pest and pest eggs a day! We need them for those early aphids. In the winter, in all stages, they can be found under garden debris. They hibernate in groups from a few to thousands!
Other Pest Eating Insects
Other insects like pirate bugs will eat small spider mites and trip bugs in the spring. Hibernate as eggs, pupae, or adults. The rise in early spring to take on those early pests! Assassin bugs will eat flies and pest caterpillars like the cabbage looper! All of these and more are nestled away right now getting ready to come out and arm your gardens!
What If I Want To Clean My Garden Now?
If you absolutely must clean your garden early, do the best by the pollinators by being gentle. Ad you carry large piles of debris to a spot in the garden where they can relax during their spring awakening. Gently layer the piles on the top of the compost pile to prevent any damage to the pollinators as they wake up. Avoid watering the compost pile during this time to avoid washing the pollinators away. In addition, use your hands for this work instead of any tools. Tools are too heavy-duty for evicting and moving your tiny garden helpers to a new spot.
Look for signs of life
Carefully move any chrysalises and cocoons you find to a safe place for them to emerge. You can even bring them into your homes to watch them emerge. Make sure to provide a safe environment with the necessary food. Praying mantis, for example; can be brought inside as an Ootheca (egg sack) to hatch in your home. When it is their time to emerge, the nymph will break through the egg sack and work their way out! Make sure to provide plenty of food for the young ones. Their main source of protein is fruit flies. We all know how to rear those! Just using old fruit in their cage can produce the initial food they will need. Once they hatch, you can send them out to the garden again!
If inside your house is not where you’d like these pollinators to hatch, place them in a safe place. You can hang them from trees or fence posts until they are ready to break out!
Yes, we are talking about this now in Spring to get you to hold off on cleaning out those gardens and growing spaces as long as possible. We are also planting a seed in you for your Fall to-do list. Together we can cultivate pollinators and pest-eating insects to patrol our gardens year after year.
Let’s continue to aid the mini-ecosystems that surround our gardens.
– Kaitlynn from MIgardener
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