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Cold + Bold Canada - Sharon Murphy




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Spring Garden Cleanup Methods That Protect Pollinators


Pollinators, those tiny creatures that unintentionally move pollen around, play a critical role in the maintaining biodiversity of our world.

The winter garden serves as a shelter for hibernating pollinators as they seek refuge in secluded spots like withered plant stems, mulch, aged wood, and the upper layers of soil and mulch.

 Insects exhibit incredible abilities, like the capability of remaining dormant in various developmental stages be it as adults, larvae, pupa, and eggs throughout the winter.

As gardeners, our awareness of the essential role we play in the natural ecosystem has heightened, driving us to seek methods to preserve beneficial insect populations such as native bees and ladybugs. 

Recent studies have unveiled innovative approaches to safeguard these vital creatures.

Here are three ways we can support pollinators in early spring:


  1. Delay Spring Cleanup a Little
  • Rather than hastily tidying up the garden by cutting and raking as early as possible, consider holding off any gardening activity until the temperature reaches 10°C (50°F) or higher for at least seven consecutive days.
  • Sustained warm weather offers insects the opportunity to emerge from hibernation and relocate before the garden undergoes any disturbances.
  • Resisting this urge can be challenging, especially in regions with fluctuating spring temperatures.
  • If you simply cannot hold off entering the garden, pile old flower stems in a designated area to permit insects to come out safely. 
  • These stems can be composted or removed by mid-June.


  1. Mulch a Bit Later
  • Numerous insects, such as ladybugs, find refuge in decomposing leaf matter and mulch during the winter months.
  • By keeping the current mulch intact and undisturbed; and by delaying the addition of more mulch until mid-June or later, you provide these insects with ample time to awaken and move on without disrupting their existing habitat as they adjust to the warming temperatures.


  1. Trim Perennials Higher in Autumn
  • This final approach is a strategy for fall garden maintenance and winter preparations, but it is something to keep in mind as the growing season winds down.
  • Since some insects overwinter inside hollow perennial stems, leaving more stem length provides a more secure space for hibernation.
  • Instead of cutting perennials back to 7 cm (3"), consider leaving longer stalks measuring 15-20 cm (6"-8") to offer pollinators more choice and protection during winter.

In conclusion, it's fascinating how simple adjustments to our gardening routines can contribute to a healthier, more sustainable environment. 

By supporting pollinators, we indirectly benefit ourselves, and embracing these practices allows us to advance a healthier and greener world for generations to come.





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