Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cleaning Up the Garden Beds for Winter-- Don't!

I saw a junco eating liatris seeds just this morning in this border along my kitchen window.
Before my accident, I was obsessively tidy with my garden beds.  I would "put my garden to bed" with a fanaticism due the reading of scripture.  My accident resulted in a garden going into winter with a too long lawn, standing herbaceous perennials and non-herbaceous perennials,

My garden looked great last year.

It especially was great when you consider the amount of work it took to get it there.  Sure, in the spring, I lopped any remaining dead tops of perennials to the ground, and raked out the beds, but I found the standing dead material had protected my garden during the most brutal winter in nearly everyone's memory.

There was also no denying that last year was a hard year in the garden for many.  It was not without the benefit of seed heads left for birds and shelter for smaller animals.  All the way up the food chain, more coyotes were seen closer to town.  A friend spotted a wolf running through their yard just south of the village.  Bear have been frequently spotted.  There have been rumors of mountain lions.

A number of times during a couple days of near freezing temperatures without a wind, I have considered cutting back some of the taller plants.  We have had less snow cover than I remember in many years and my mobility has improved.  The urge to get out into the garden has been strong.  Then, however, I will spot a cluster of birds working over my plants, scavenging for food.  The impulse goes away.

I have to face it.  I have a lot of critters in my garden.

Note the trail between the bridal wreath spirea and the plum?  Here's hoping it is feral cats hunting small gnawing creatures like rabbits and mice, rather than a rabbit.  My neighbor across the way says he sees a regular rabbit visitor hopping along this route through my yard.  Some of the track do unmistakably look rabbit-like, but enough to delineate a trail?  I'm not sure.
If we are to be sustainable, it is only reasonable to acknowledge wildlife will also recognize us as such.  There will be more birds.  I will see more damage to strawberries.  I will be competing with squirrels on a regular basis for every last hazelnut.  Small rodent with their need to gnaw may view my prunus, malas, and rosas differently than I do.

We will all need to learn to get along.

Which critters will you allow to coexist?  Like insects, which will be deemed beneficial and which will be seen as pests?

Are feral cats bad if they are hunting small mice and rabbits?  What of the Cooper's hawk if it snags the occasional songbird?  What of coyotes, if they hunt feral cats?

We can't have our cake and eat it, too.

1 comment:

  1. As you may know, I'm all for predators. Coyotes are at the top of the food chain around here, and as far as I am concerned, the more the merrier. And I don't begrudge the hawks their share of birds. You and I are also of the same mind when it comes to clean ups: I always wait until spring.