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Fall Yard and Garden Clean-Up: A Guide to Supporting Native Pollinators and Overwintering Birds

As the vibrant colors of summer start to fade and the crisp autumn breeze sweeps through Wisconsin, it's time to start thinking about your fall yard and garden clean-up. While it may be tempting to clear away everything in preparation for winter, taking a more mindful approach can have a significant positive impact on native pollinators and overwintering birds in your area. In this guide, we'll explore how you can plan your fall clean-up to better support these essential creatures in your community, with a special focus on Wisconsin and the Midwest.


Leave Some Plants Standing

One of the most effective ways to support pollinators and overwintering birds is to leave some of your garden plants standing through the fall and winter months. Many native bees and butterflies use plant stems and leaves for shelter and overwintering. Consider leaving native perennials, grasses, and wildflowers untouched until late winter or early spring. Not only will this provide a valuable habitat, but it will also add visual interest to your winter garden landscape.


Create Brush Piles

Brush piles are an excellent addition to your fall clean-up routine. Simply gather fallen branches, twigs, and leaves and create a designated area for these piles in your yard. Brush piles offer shelter and protection for birds during the winter months. They can be a haven for sparrows, wrens, and other small birds seeking refuge from harsh weather and predators.


Provide Winter Food Sources

Fall is an ideal time to plant native shrubs and trees that produce berries, seeds, or nuts that birds rely on for winter sustenance. Consider adding species like serviceberry, elderberry, and oak trees to your yard. These plants provide essential food sources for various bird species, ensuring they have the energy to survive the colder months.


Delay Pruning and Clean-Up

While it's essential to maintain your garden's health, consider postponing any major pruning or garden clean-up until late winter or early spring. Bees and other pollinators may still be active on warm fall days, and they rely on hollow plant stems for nesting sites. By waiting to cut back spent plants, you can protect these crucial habitats.


Provide Water

Water is essential for all wildlife, including birds and insects. Make sure you maintain a clean and accessible water source throughout the fall and winter. Consider installing a heated birdbath to ensure birds have access to liquid water during freezing temperatures.


Avoid Chemicals

Using pesticides and herbicides in your fall clean-up routine can harm pollinators and other wildlife. Instead, opt for natural and organic methods to manage garden pests and weeds. Encourage a healthy ecosystem by planting a variety of native plants that attract beneficial insects, which can help control pest populations.


Fall yard and garden clean-up in Wisconsin can be an opportunity to create a haven for native pollinators and overwintering birds. By taking a thoughtful approach to your clean-up routine, you can provide essential resources like shelter, food, and water that will support these vital members of your local ecosystem. So, as you prepare your garden for winter, remember that a little extra care and consideration can go a long way in ensuring a thriving environment for both nature and your enjoyment. Happy gardening!

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