We had a few absolutely beautiful days this week, so much so that our expert landscape team at Mirage was struggling with the temptation to get out our rakes, leaf blowers, and garbage bags and start visiting our commercial and residential landscaping clients for their annual spring clean-up. Thankfully, however, we know better. Our temperatures look to be very comfortable for the next couple weeks, but it is still not quite warm enough to begin our seasonal services.
Even though it seems like it should be safe to start cleaning up your property and prepping for planting as soon as possible, expert gardeners advise waiting until it has been consistently above 10 degrees Celsius during the day for at least seven days before starting a spring clean-up. The reason for this has to do with helping our environment stay as healthy and vibrant as possible.
Pollinators are still just waking up
Everyone knows how important bees are. While the busy little creatures are out flitting from flower to flower, they collect and transfer pollen and seeds from bloom to bloom. In doing so, they fertilize each plant. Cross-pollination is said to assist 30 per cent of the globe’s crops and 90 per cent of the world’s wild plants grow and thrive.
Right now, bees and other pollinators, plus the very beneficial ladybug, which happily helps rid gardens of pests such as aphids, are still comfortably nestled in the dead plant material of your garden, where they overwinter to stay safe and warm during the cold months. If you perform a spring clean-up too early, you risk either destroying them entirely or disturbing them enough to cause them to leave too early, when they won’t be able to survive the weather.
Leaving your dead plant material for longer will allow the do-gooder insects the right amount of time to grow strong and healthy, which will then support a robust population during the summer to keep your garden – and others – blooming beautifully.
How to do a careful spring clean-up
It may be impossible to resist starting to clean up your yard, so now that you know there are important insects still hunkered down throughout your garden, there are ways to protect them from harm.
- Check hollow stems for signs of life such as an end plugged with plant material and/or mud. If you must move these, don’t throw them out. Gently move them to an unobtrusive corner and let them be for a few weeks.
- Snip perennial stems at about 15 centimetres tall rather than directly above ground to protect habitat and potentially entice new bees to move in. Once your perennials start growing you won’t even be able to see the dead stems anymore.
- Piles of leaf matter tend to house butterflies, ladybugs, and assassin bugs. You can also carefully move leaf piles to areas where they can lie in peace until they are ready to appear.
- Don’t try to revive your mulched-in beds just yet. Wait until the ground is warm enough for bees and other insects that nest in-ground to emerge before filling in another layer of mulch.
- Prune carefully. If you see a chrysalis that will eventually turn into a colourful butterfly, leave that branch intact to be visited again later in the summer.
How to Attract Bees
- Plant a good variety of annuals and perennials that will bloom from spring through to late fall.
- Bees are drawn to flowers by their colours and their odors, and seem to prefer those that are on spikes, such as lavender, veronica spicata, salvia and liatris spicata. Sunflowers, black-eyed susans, goldenrod, honeysuckle, echinacea and anything daisy-like also work well.
- Pots of flowers in bright bunches are a sure win. Place them in the same spot each year, as bees have a built-in radar that causes them to return to known pollen-hunting grounds annually.
- Groups of different shapes of flowers are also good for attracting bees.
- Keep an area of your yard wild by allowing grass to grow tall enough to fold over and leave behind debris such as plants with hollow stems and dead branches.
- Purchase or build a bee box to attract social species like honeybees. These are readily available at garden stores or you can build your own quite easily using a kit.
Mirage Landscaping provides landscape maintenance and construction services
Call Mirage to not only beautify your yard, but also make it a haven for the right types of wildlife visitors. Also call Mirage to help get rid of the wildlife you don’t want. Specializing in the southeast Calgary area, Mirage provide the highest standard of services for Calgary lawn care and Calgary landscape construction services. Check out our portfolio for examples of our work.