Put Down the Shears

How To Make Your Garden a Natural Habitat

By Sandy Swegel

Put Down the Shears.

That’s my mantra when I get out in the garden and start pruning or cleaning-up. I get involved in making a shrub or tree look perfect and pretty soon I’ve cut too much out. So my gardening buddy will use her best police officer type voice and say. “Put down the garden shears.”

That’s my command to you this week. Or as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds) advises people who want to help birds survive:

Don’t deadhead. Don’t rake up the leaves. Don’t tidy up.

They explain, “Most songbirds switch from eating seeds to insects during nesting season, then turn back to seeds for fall and winter.” So when you deadhead and compulsively clean your garden beds, you’re removing the food that enables birds to survive the winter. It’s a long time till Spring…and sometimes the bird is on a long migratory journey…they need calories.

So if you want your yard to be a natural habitat, leave the seed-heads on your plants. Birds see the seedhead from the sky and like to land on top of the seed head and then bend over to pick seeds out. On top of the plant, birds are safer from predators. Leave most of the leaves too. You can rake some if you must. But leave a good mulch of leaves to protect the plants, to hide seeds that fall for the birds, and to give beneficial insects a place to nest all winter.

Just be lazy. The birds have spoken.

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