By: Jennifer Davit
This time of year we get many clients asking if they should mow their native plantings to prepare for winter. Traditional gardeners are accustomed to cutting back all their perennial plantings each fall and cleaning up their vegetable beds for early planting in the spring, but with native plantings, that type of maintenance is not usually necessary.
Native wildflower and grass plantings do not need to be cut back in the fall; there are multiple benefits of leaving the wildflowers and grasses up throughout the fall and winter months. Right now, many of the wildflower seeds are ripening and provide a critical source of nutrition for grain eating birds. One of my favorite fall past-times is observing goldfinches perching on tops of coneflower seed heads and meticulously eating seeds. You can watch them bounce from seed head to seed head, singing their delightful song, while filling their bellies with nutritious seed.
Many other birds species, along with other small mammals, benefit from plant material that is left up throughout the winter months, as it provides shelter and food. A host of small insects also live in this native landscape and provide a critical food source for birds as well. In addition to ecological services, the plants also look beautiful! The seed heads and grasses of many natives remain sturdy throughout fall and winter months and provide beauty in all seasons. The lovely changes in native plantings over time remind me to appreciate the seasons and take a minute to observe the beauty nature provides. We hope you take time to appreciate the beginning of autumn in your yard and value the ecological and aesthetic qualities of native plants.