Just like your skin, soil craves warmth and moisture during the dry, cold winter months. Bare soil is prone to drying out and freezing, which can damage roots and affect soil quality.
The best protection for your garden beds? The leaves that naturally fall from the trees and plants on your property. Not only will they insulate your soil over the winter, they’ll feed it, too. Leaves decompose over the winter and build the amount of organic matter in your soil, providing natural nutrients that are essential for soil health and reducing the need for additional fertilizer. (Do you ever see bare soil like this in forest floor?)
Plus, you’ll be saving yourself the trouble of raking and bagging, and keeping organic material out of your local landfill. It’s a win for you, your garden, and the planet.
You can also run your mower right over those leaves instead. Mulched leaves not only protect and feed the plants you love, they also help control plants you don't love. Next spring, those chopped up leaf bits can block sunlight from germinating dandelion seeds and other sun-loving weeds.
Need a special mower? Not necessarily. Mulching mowers are most effective, but regular mowers mulch leaves, too. Run your mower over the leaves a couple times and be sure to bag your mower bag.
Don’t forget: Leaves are called “leaves” for a reason!
Temps are dropping, winter is coming. Too cold for your compost to keep cooking?
Not if you bring it inside! With an indoor worm composting tower, you can actively compost all year long. Worms (red wigglers are best) live within these self-contained systems, turning food scraps and bedding (shredded newspaper, coconut fiber) into nutrient-rich compost. Once they’ve eaten through a tray of food scraps—raw fruits and veggies, coffee grounds, tea leaves, or finely crushed eggs shells—in the tower, the worms wiggle up to the next, leaving behind a tray of food for your houseplants or garden.
Worried about bugs? Or smell? Keep the bedding:food ratio 1:1 and skip the meat, dairy, and citrus.
Bats get a bad rap, especially this time of year. Instead of screaming the next time you see one, consider the following:
- Every night, an insect-eating bat will eat its own weight in bugs. A whole colony? Hundreds of pounds of bugs a night. More bats = fewer mosquitos in your yard, fewer pests in your garden, fewer pesticides sprayed.
- Bats eat more than bugs. Around the world, fruit- and pollen-munching bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers.
- Installing a bat house (see photo above) is a great way to encourage these furry flying friends to take up residence on your property.
- Using pesticides is not. Pesticides, especially insect sprays, limit the amount of bugs and other healthy food for bats to eat. Pesticides also build up in bats' little bodies over time, which has been linked to immunosuppression and endocrine disruption.
Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese or Chinese Silver Grass) used to be the ornamental grass of choice for landscape designers. Showy, low-maintenance, year-round beauty... What's not to love?
Plenty. Those pretty flowers? Full of seeds that quickly disperse in the wind. As a result, this drought-tolerant, sun-loving grass is taking over meadows, roadsides, and forest edges across the country. In fact, Miscanthus is so invasive that it is now banned for sale on Long Island.
What to do if it's already in your garden? Prevent seeds from spreading by cutting off the flowers when they start to resemble a dandelion puff. If you see any baby Miscanthus sprouting, pull them up right away. Baby Miscanthus are easy to remove—mature Miscanthus not so much.
Looking for alternatives? Try native grasses like Little Bluestem, Switchgrass, or Indian Grass.
Photo credit: Ian Alexander Martin on Flickr
Plants sprout from seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and more, but weeds always originate in the same place: our minds. A weed is simply a plant you've been taught to view as undesirable.
Who taught you? Mostly chemical companies marketing products to keep "weeds" under control. For example, milkweed was long considered unattractive—now we view it as a vital tool to saving the monarch butterfly population.
Times change. Perceptions change. Fashions change: We once thought shoulder pads were a must-have accessory. Isn't it time to rethink our landscaping must-haves? Clover, anyone?