7 Tips: Preparing Your Fall Garden For Habitat
At the vast majority of the Northern regions have enjoyed the immense populations of our countries wildlife this summer, it's time to remember migration for many species as they head South. Some species of birds, like our beloved Hummingbird will be facing detrimental feats as they travel through the drought stricken South heading for home. The challenges they face will be traveling hundreds of miles through complete loss of vegetation and thousands of acres where wildfires have burned. It will take the intervention of man to help them survive.
As well, fall is the time for both the Northern and Southern portions of our country to prepare their gardens to over winter until spring. Without the knowledge of what winter challenges we may face, we must plan carefully to harness the most benefits for nature. It will be very important to concentrate on a few key elements for the health of our gardens to make them more productive. In turn this will help ensure the health and well being for wildlife. Everything works together hand in hand to balance life within our ecosystems.
As I've laid out 7 points of focus, I know that man can be quite innovative in their garden efforts. We would love to hear about some of the things you do to help ensure and create more diversity withing your landscape.
- Providing Food: Providing food for wildlife during harsh weather conditions is on the top of the list. Throughout Texas and other drought stricken areas it will be detrimental to provide extra hummingbird feeders and plenty of bird seed as the birds are beginning migration. A good water source for birds and other wildlife should be included.
- Clean-Up Time: As we begin our clean-up efforts in the garden landscape remember not to throw the refuge out for the trash man. It's important to keep it for building better compost that will enrich your soil. Save some things like limbs from trees and brush and set them aside in a pile in a naturalized area of your landscape. This will help to create a natural habitat for important beneficial insects like solitary wild bees and beetles that help nourish your garden. As your rake your fallen leaves add them to your compost pile or simply bag them up and let them overwinter in the sunshine. When you open them up in early spring the bags will be filled with a fine loam of leaf mold that you can add to your beds. We use our lawnmower to chop the leaves soon after they are raked and add them to the vegetable garden for winter crops.
- Green Manure: In the regions where rain has been plentiful and the grass and weeds grow high, be sure to catch as many clippings as possible as you mow. Add them to your compost pile for rich green manure that will increase the amount of nitrogen needed in your garden. As the compost pile decomposes it will snuff out unwanted weed seeds. Remember, your compost pile eliminates the need for costly soil amendments you might have to purchase later. This is your best source of natural fertilizer as well as creating an excellent soil structure.
- Cover Crops And Native Grass: Planting cover crops and seeding your lawn with native grass will both help benefit wildlife as well as improve your soil. Leaving bare soil will kill many beneficial micro organisms needed to develop healthy growing conditions. Bare soil also leads to more disease and bad insect infestations. Cover crops like cereal rye grass will keep your lawn green all winter and help prevent soil erosion. In the garden cover crops can be turned under, adding the best source of healthy natural nutrients back into your soil and promote the growth of many beneficial nematodes and micro organisms.
- Sowing Native Wildflowers And Herbs: Fall is also the time for sowing native wildflowers and many herbs. In the spring the wildlife will be blessed with an abundance of food and you can relish in the beauty of a vast array of rich color and scents. Find out what wildflowers are recommended for your area and enjoy the show in the spring as butterflies, bees and birds flutter through your garden. Some of the herbs we will be sowing in fall are Cilantro, Dill, Parsley and Borage. Herbs help promote many beneficial insects as well as ward off the bad ones.
- Propagation: Fall is also the time to divide up many perennial plants such as Bee Balm, Cone flowers, Mexican Mint Marigold and Lemon Grass. By dividing up the plants and placing them in other parts of the landscape you can increase diversity and save money. I also take cuttings from things like rosemary and salvias and start new plants in pots where I can share them with friends and add them to my own garden as well.
- Soil Amendments: As you've cleaned out your garden and flower beds, fall is also the perfect time to test your soil. Adding important amendments in fall will be the key to a successful spring garden. If you remember having black spot on the bottom of some of your tomatoes this summer, then you know you may likely need to add things like lime to prevent problems in the future. Maintaining a proper PH balance in your soil is quite vital to the proper progress and growth habits in your garden. There are many organic minerals and animal compounds available such as fish meal, blood meal and other manures that can be added to bring your soil into balance.