On September 27, 2023

Proper autumn garden care can help pollinators


Dear Editor,

Fall is the time of year we generally begin to put our gardens to bed. I have recently changed my garden practices considerably since learning that our gardens can be important havens for pollinating insects and other wildlife during every season of the year.

Last year at this time, the Pollinator Pathway of Addison County presented an informative webinar, “Fall Gardening for Pollinators” by Emily May, a pollinator conservation specialist with the Xerces Society. Emily explains the importance of using a light touch when preparing your garden for winter. I highly recommend watching the entire webinar at tinyurl.com/fall-pollinator-strategy.

Here are some important takeaways to get you started:

Leave the leaves

Since many beneficial insects overwinter in the leaf litter, we can manage our leaves by: 1) Leaving a thin layer of leaves on grassy areas; 2) Adding layers of leaves under trees, shrubs, and perennials for mulch; 3) Spreading leaves on vegetable and flowerbeds for soil building, and 4) Avoiding shredding leaves since that kills the overwintering insects. 

Emily May suggests gently raking some leaves to another part of your yard where they aren’t in the way. Mowing and bagging leaves is not helpful to the important native insects which overwinter in leaf litter.

Save the stems

A third of insects overwinter in the stems of perennial plants, so this means it would be helpful if we don’t cut back the stems of perennial flowers such as anise hyssop, purple coneflower, sunflower, goldenrod, aster, sumac, and elderberry. These flowers are highly favored by insects in our area. 

Here is Emily’s suggested schedule: 

Fall and Winter: leave dead flower stalks intact (birds will love the seeds) 

Spring: cut back dead flower stalks leaving stem stubble at varying heights of 8”-12” 

Summer: new growth hides the stem stubble 

Fall: leave new-growth stems standing. 

To prevent diseases, it’s important to cut out plants in the Fall that have fungal infections like powdery mildew and early blight as well as apple drops. Bag and dispose of these diseased plant materials instead of putting them in your compost.

And remember, the new look for gardens is more relaxed, casual, and takes a lot less work. 

A somewhat messier garden provides habitat for the creatures that need it more than we need a pristine landscape. Questions or information about future presentations can be directed to pollinatorpathway.addisoncty@gmail.com.

Fran Putnam,


Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

A public education Vermonters support and value

May 22, 2024
By Margaret MacLean Editor’s note: Margaret MacLean, from Peacham, has been an educator for 50 years, working as a teacher, school principal and consultant both in Vermont, the U.S. and internationally. Over the past 14 years Vermont has enacted three sweeping school district consolidation laws. The overarching goals of Act 153, Act 156, and Act…

Vermont’s lost submarine memorial

May 22, 2024
Dear Editor, At the Veteran Administration (VA) in White River Jct, VT, there is a distinct memorial dedicated to the Submarine USS Flier (SS 250) lost during World War II.  Ever mindful of our lost shipmates, friends and family that have served in the submarine service of our country, the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc. (USSVI)…

H.121 poses significant risk to Vermont’s business community

May 22, 2024
Dear Editor, As the CEO of the Vermont Country Store (VCS), I strongly support consumer privacy as does the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and many peer companies in the state. I wholeheartedly endorse the Connecticut law that was the foundation of H.121. However, as passed it is my hope that Governor Scott will veto H.121.…

Vermont’s outsize appetite for taxes

May 22, 2024
Dear Editor, Most Vermont taxpayers have just experienced a period of tax focus, specifically property taxes to support our public schools. Some communities are still going through the valuable public debate about property taxes and, more generally, the overall tax burden and trying to evaluate that relative to what we receive for our tax dollars.…