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The Joy of Gardening

Whether prairie plant or pansy, native or ornamental, gain insight into all aspects of gardening & wildlife.
Fall Bed

Fall cleanup... friend or foe?


I have perennial beds in front of my house, in front of the front window. They are driving me crazy this year because they catch all of the leaves that the west wind blows into my front yard. I just get them cleaned out and the leaves just blow right back in. I must have raked 6 or 7 times, but within two days they have filled up again. What can I do to keep the leaves out? Should I just mow the bed off to ground level so the leaves won't have anything to catch and get entangled on? Or get rid of the beds and plant grass?

Answer

There are various options available to you in this situation. I am assuming that perhaps you find the leaves that are getting caught in your perennial beds unsightly, and this is why you wish to remove them. If this is the case, then yes, you would want to cut down your perennials down to a few inches. Now even though this would be the more traditional approach I would urge you to take into consideration the numerous environmental benefits by not cutting them. To list a few: birds will eat the seeds that are in the flower stalks during winter; butterfly and insect species overwinter in the perennials and cannot otherwise complete their life cycles; the vegetation will serve as habitat and protection for wildlife such as frogs and salamanders; and butterflies, spiders and other insects will overwinter in the fallen leaves themselves. Now if you feel that wildlife is not an issue dear to your heart, instead do it for the sake of your perennials. The dead plant material will serve as winter protection for your very own perennials. I would steer you away from transforming your bed into lawn due to the workload involved, the maintenance required and the loss of color and interest to your garden.



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