Cleaning Up the Garden in the Spring

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Now that the temperatures have warmed, it is time to clean up the garden. Why, you may ask, did we not clean up the garden sooner? The reason is that there are many forms of wildlife that depend on the dried stalks, leaves, seed heads, etc. for shelter and food in the winter.

Henderson County Extension Master Gardeners Volunteers clean up the Extension Teaching Garden in late March 2023

Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteers of Henderson County clean up the Extension Teaching Garden in late March 2023

Animals such as box turtles, toads, spring peepers, salamanders and lizards use garden debris and fallen leaves and sticks. Insects overwinter inside the dried hollow stems of many perennial flowers and hollow stemmed shrubs such as hydrangeas. Butterflies and moth larvae overwinter in leaf litter. When gardeners remove the remnants of the summer garden they remove the material that many creatures utilize as winter habitat.


However, once the spring thaw has occurred and temperatures moderate, most of the wildlife has abandoned the winter garden. This is the time to cut back your perennial flowers and grasses. If you want to remove your leaves, this is the time to do this as well. Break up the stems and along with the leaves, add to your compost.