Putting the Garden to Bed

It used to be standard practice for farmers to till their fields after harvest; a black canvas to be painted white by snow before turning green again in the spring. Gardeners, too, enjoyed the clean look (and spring-readiness) of a tightly pruned bedded garden.


But just as farmers are recognizing the benefits of leaving more plant matter on their fields over winter, gardeners are also seeing beauty and utility in leaving the stalks and flower heads of many plants intact to provide texture to the garden, and food and habitat to all kinds of native wildlife.


Mary Jane Smetanka at the Star Tribune explores the how and why of bedding a pollinator-friendly garden.

Birds aren’t the only ones that will eat flower seed heads. I once looked out a window at the snowy garden on a below-zero day to see a vole scampering up the dead stem of a black-eyed Susan to chew on the seed head.

Some native bees overwinter and nest in the stems of dead perennials. With all the concern about pollinators, this is something gardeners who care about the environment should consider. Leaves and other plant litter in the garden can provide winter shelter for other beneficial insects as well.