12/5/14: In the garden this week

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This mixed border of native perennials and grasses, with tall shrubs at the back, will feed birds abundantly all winter. The leaf litter remains on the ground to harbor insects, including butterflies that overwinter as purpae or adults.

I wish I could show you photos of the activity in my garden: squirrels shoot across the backyard and climb the ash tree we planted as a tiny shoot 19 years ago; song sparrows sift through the leaf litter under the perennials; mixed feeding flocks forage through the shrub islands. Recently blue jays have been hanging out in the holly outside my office window; as soon as I wrote that they left, they (or maybe some other jays) were back. We do not hang feeders: our native plants feed the birds for us.

If you get tired of admiring the birds from the windows (they take off the second we go outside), here are some garden chores you can be thinking about:

continue to water newly installed perennials and woody plants as needed. The recommended amount is 1 inch per week during dry spells. The same goes for newly planted lawn (but not established lawn). Keep it up until the ground freezes.

do not prune woody plants. It’s almost time, but not quite yet: trees and shrubs are still carrying out leaf abscission, the complicated process of shutting down for winter. This process takes a lot of energy, so plants don’t have energy to spare for making scar tissue. The next pruning window will come soon, when plants reach dormancy.

– thoroughly clean up the vegetable garden. Do not compost diseased or pest-infested plants. Spread a layer of compost to prepare the soil for next year.

leave seedheads in place on perennials and native grasses and enjoy the bird activity all winter.

save your autumn leaves for compost. Store them to add to the compost pile all year. You may also decide to use your lawnmower to chop them and mulch them into your lawn as fertilizer.

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