Some simple suggestions …

Faithful readers of our posts will have gathered some ideas about how to attract wildlife to their gardens over spring, summer and early fall but now winter approaches and what do we do with all those native plants still standing tall? The neighbours are starting to look askance.

This is Canada and we are taught from an early age that gardens must be clear, clean and tidy before the snows arrive!

Well, maybe not. There is a compromise approach that will help you feel you have done of the “obligatory” cleaning up while still helping the critters who have been dropping by and setting up residence in the maintops behind us.

Try this:

1. Shelter Piles.

Cut down a few (or all if you must) of your golden rod and aster plants that are now bearing seed heads BUT don’t throw them out. These plants have partially lignified, stiff stems inside which there will be insect eggs and larvae settling down to wait for spring. We will want the next generation when spring returns. Pile the stems in a corner, you can get rid of them in late April. Make the pile loose. Birds and small mammals will be able to eat the seeds while the spaces under the stems will allow for warm hollows under the snow in which creatures can shelter.

2. Old logs

Do you have some logs or old branches? In another corner stack them so create larger sheltering spaces underneath … the chipmunks and other small mammals will use those spaces. Over the years the logs will decay due to insect and fungus infiltration and all those creatures will feed larger ones.

3. Tall, stiff perennials

Let few of the really big native plants stand if they have stems tough enough not to be bent over by the weight of snow. The seeds will be appreciated … these are New England Asters and about 5 feet in height. Again, there may be eggs and larvae in the stems.

4. Some plants are still flowering – Rudbeckia and Echinacea for example and they have very big seed heads. They can wait to be cleared until spring. The seeds are food for winter finches and will give splendid photo opportunities when birds like Pine Siskins, Goldfinches and Redpolls are sitting on the stems above the snow.