Fall is here officially. There are weather warnings lurking about, I went searching for my official dog walking gloves, hat and coat and I need to call the gutter guys. It is here and it came suddenly, but we knew it was on the horizon. Some of us are rushing to get that Fall “Clean Up” done…………………………..afterall, it is a traditional ritual. Every opportunity should be utilized for garden clean up so that the leaves do not smother and ruin the lawn and garden…..
STOP……LET’S THINK ABOUT THIS…..
As much as I am in the woods enjoying the view, hiking or just communing with nature, I have yet to see anyone raking the wooded areas in nature so that under plantings will survive….Have You??? From Giverny to Chanticleer to other favorite gardens I frequent, the best areas, with the richest soils are those left mostly alone, allowing nature to do her thing. Even in a private mountain garden I frequent, I can dig with my hands to scoop up and smell wonderfully, rich earth, as the leaf litter – naturally broken down by Mom Nature – has become layers of fantabulous, rich soil. If you feel you must rake – think COMPOST. Slow composting allows Mother Nature to do the work slowly, over time and with little effort on your part.
When we allow the earth to perform, as it has done since the beginning of time, the gifts it gives back to us is simply unbelievable. Two writers I know speak to this in their writings -Kathryn Hall (Plant What Brings You Joy – Blessed Wisdom from the Garden) and Helen Yeost (Gardening With Confidence and Plants With Benefits).
Both of these ladies reference the benefits of leaving a part of the garden “untended” a bit. Providing a place, a safe haven, an opportunity to just “be” allows our little beneficial’s and wildlife, to eat, rest and procreate.
Along the path in my garden, I allow the leaves to fall with total abandon. I allow this shade garden at The Cottage to emulate nature, as much as possible. Shaded by a very large Oak Tree, the leaves fall and scatter about and once a year I mulch in early winter, just before the ground freezes with Virginia Fines Pine Bark and Mulch. I did this in my Fredericksburg garden years ago and in three years time, I was able to forego the mulching and just let the leaves fall. The leaves broke down and became a sweet-smelling , fresh brown, earth worm laden valley of rich earth. Nature has a way of taking care of itself, Man/Woman has a way of un-balancing things. Being mindful of tender plants and minor bulbs, this practice cannot be done in all parts of the garden. However choose a spot that you dedicate to a safe haven for all the positive things that can happen in the garden – and let it be. Also think NATIVE.
Native plants are tough. They have endured more than the average plant and are usually the best investment for your money. As in nature, choose wisely and plant them in the appropriate environment. Do your homework – research, research, research. As in nature, select plants that have different bloom times and seasonal interest. Have you ever noticed the garden in it’s winter nakedness??? Or are you inside nesting when cold winter winds are whistling outside your window?????
I challenge you to be a better Steward of the land, a better Conservator of our natural space – even our own yards – for our beneficial insects and smaller wildlife. Get outside, commune with nature and choose a spot to be left untended.
Are you up to the challenge??? I am………