Thursday September 29th 2022

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Procrastination Saves Lives!

overgrown bench/ ben heath


Early in my gardening career (some 4+ decades ago) I cleaned up the garden each fall, pulling everything out, cutting down plants and stems so that everything was ready to go in the spring. That didn’t last many years. By first frost I was soon ready to be done with gardening and looked forward to just shoveling snow for a few months. Clean out was left till spring. I soon noticed birds feeding on the dried seed heads left standing during the winter. So, I now had an excellent reason to not clean away the dead plants: feeding the birds. Also, in spring I found last year’s vegetable plants munched down to nubs with abundant rabbit turds left behind, presumably in thanks for getting the bunnies through the winter.

Rabbit poop is an excellent fertilizer with four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure, and is twice as nutritious as chicken manure. It is not a “hot” manure like horse, cow, or chicken poop – it doesn’t have to be composted first. And the rabbits handle application for free. All I have to do is put off cleaning the garden!

Recently I’ve learned that delaying garden clean up longer into the spring pays off, too. Turns out many bee species make their winter nests in the hollow stems of last season’s flowers, weeds, and branches. Some overwinter in the leaf matter left laying around or burrow into the soil for their winter get-away. Bees emerge at different temperatures after winter, depending on the species – at minimum with a steady 55º – 60º for several days. When I absolutely have to get moving on planting, I will carefully pile stems off to the side or make a stem display in a flower pot. By mid June everyone should have left their cozy stems and I can finish the clean up. Or not.

When those bees do come out, they need to eat! Which brings us to another bee life-saving procrastination tactic: No Mow May. No Mow May is a growing movement, and it is simply that – waiting until after May to mow your lawn. Look at your patch of grass this month. You’ll likely see dandelions, clover, violets, and the much maligned creeping charlie. Look closely at those flowers for happy buzzing activity! You will grieve all the years you mowed down those flowers. The “perfect lawn” ideal still reigns, but cities are slowly coming around and endorsing No Mow May. Join the movement for the sake of bees! (Added bonus – another chore to put off).

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