Spring or Fall?

ladylotus(Z3/4 ND)September 21, 2006

For the past ten years we have not had much measurable snow. I live in the country and the winds blow through here like a freight train on a mission. Armed with this knowledge I do not cut down my foliage until Spring. I have had great success when following this Spring clean up regimen.

Last year I decided to try something new and cleaned my gardens up and cut all my foliage down in the Fall. It made Spring gardening EASY. However, I lost MANY plants. Now I realize, it was a very bad winter, dry, windy, very cold with temperature fluctions from -19°F to +70°F in a matter of days. I will be going back to my Spring clean up. I believe that if we do get any snow the standing foliage does hold in some snow creating a wonderful blanket of insulation.

I know people question my gardening wisdom with Fall clean up stating I will be harboring pests and disease. I've never had any problem with pests or diseases. I believe it is mainly due to our very cold weather that any of these pests and/or diseases simply do not survive through our winters.

What do all of you do and why?

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jennypat Zone 3b NW MN(Zone 3b NW MN)

I am not sure where you are in ND, but I am only 6 miles from the ND border, in the NW corner of MN. Any way I am like you, I do not clean up until spring. I started doing it this way first because I didn't know any better. Second because I never had the time in the fall to do it!
I agree the last few winters have been milder. In fact I have some zone 5 plants that have been coming back unexpectedly 2 years in a row!

Jenny P

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 7:39PM
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I am a spring cleanup guy for several reasons:

1. The remaining seedheads can be pretty and provide food for the birds. The Juncos seem to love the Liatris seeds and they are a hoot to watch.

2. I think it is easier. For instance, the Hosta foliage has usually dissolved and the daylilies come out with a quick tug.

3. I look forward to nice early spring days to start cleanup. I am not real motivated in the fall by the sea of brown.

With that said I would probably fall cleanup anything that had a disease over the summer.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 7:47PM
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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

I will clear out some that are notorious re-seeders, phlox, rudbeckia, perilla, and such- or some that mildew may be a problem with- peonies mostly- and cut back others like iris, siberian and bearded, monardas and some I just don't like to see all winter- to fans and stubble. I do like to leave some for the birds and mice- and for protection as well.
It does seem so much easier to remove dry husks/stalks in the spring with just a wave of the hand- then it is to cut each stalk with a pruner in the fall.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 9:06PM
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jel48(Z4 Michigan)

Ditto absolutely everything that ginkgonut said :-) Although I do have to admit to some hollyhock cleanup this fall because they looked absolutely ugly for my neighbor to have to look at.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 10:05PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

I am a spring cleaner because
1. It provides food for the birds
2. I like the look
3. It helps to hold the snow in place to protect my plants
4. I love the surprises awaiting me when I do the clean up.
5. It is the first chance I get to get out there and work after a long winter.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 8:03AM
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selkie_b(z4 MN)

I'm a spring cleaner - except when it comes to pruning my roses a bit. I just kind of tame them back and do the major clean out on them in spring. I also will often get my wild asters cleaned out as that prevents them seeding even worse than they already do!

I have enough to do in fall - I have begonia corms, cannas, and herbs to bring in, all the sweaters to wash (*pats self on back* - that's done), jams and jellies to make, squash and beets to process, and more tomato sauce to make. Not to mention that knitting! UGH! And three+ fleeces to spin!


    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 11:07PM
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I leave everything up except for plants that experienced disease this past year, or are prone to disease or to harboring pests (this latter group includes mostly non-natives).

Everything else stays up for:

  • winter interest

  • feeding birds and little critters

  • protection of butterflies and beneficial bugs (yes, some pest bugs are protected too)

  • places for birds to find shelter

  • crown protection of plants- the stems gather leaves and snow

  • nest building material in the spring for birds and small wildlife

  • following the example of Mother Nature, who must have some clue, eh? ;-)

  • helps me see where the paths are when I'm tromping through the garden in the winter

  • let's me get out in the garden and do something useful when it's too early to work soil

In reference to that last one, I like to make sure I get out early enough so I don't disturb any established nurseries. Since I don't grow my plants in authentic prairie-style, I do like to tidy up a bit. This may become less each year if I don't experience problems.

I don't cut down the prolific re-seeders. I like seeing where they try to migrate to, they make nice plant swap items, and I'd never get them all anyways.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 8:19AM
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