This is how gardeners help animals in the fall

Berlin – Rake, clear, collect – every year anew. Some gardeners associate everyday autumn life with a lot of work. Others just love it: tidying up at the end of the gardening season, chopping everything neatly and packing away until next year.

But a highly arranged garden can backfire: “It does not provide food for the animals and does not provide protection for plants and insects,” says Isabelle van Groningen of the Royal Garden Academy in Berlin. A joint position by Verina Jedemchik of the German Union for the Conservation of Nature (NABU) and Catherine Wenz of the German Society for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND). They are all based on natural gardening.

Here are her tips on animal-friendly gardening—and a compromise suggestion for those who want it in a neater way:

“The best thing and the bottom line is this: not arranging the garden too well,” says Bond expert Catherine Wiens. This does not mean that everything stays in place, but you make piles of timber and small piles of wood in a corner of the garden.

Gardening lecturer Isabelle van Groningen advises that perennials, for example, should not be cut back at the end of the flowering period or even at the end of the gardening season. The seed pods not only look beautiful, but also provide food for birds. At the same time, perennials are natural insect hotels whose inhabitants can spend the winter here.

And there’s another supposed fall organic waste that’s more valuable than often thought: the leaves of trees and shrubs. This can also become a hotel for insects and, for example, hedgehogs due to which they hibernate in heaps. Leaves can be left lying on the beds. It acts here as a winter protection and after rotting as a fertilizer and soil conditioner.

But amateur gardeners have to work in the lawn, or else the grass will rot under the leaves, says van Groningen. “It’s best to collect the leaves in the fall with a lawn mower.” The mixture of shredded leaves and grass can be composted more quickly and can be used again later to grow new plants.

The three experts strongly advise against using vacuum cleaners or leaf blowers. “Leaf blowers are an environmental disaster. They destroy the upper layer of the earth and with it a large number of organisms trying to live there,” says Isabelle van Groningen.

Aside from noise, appliances with internal combustion engines emit harmful exhaust gases such as carbon, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide, says Verena Jedamschek. In addition, small animals are literally chopped up when using devices with a suction function.

For gardeners who need a lot of order in their garden, there is a middle ground: keep house surroundings, garden paths and stairs tidy, then leave the rest as is, advises Isabel van Groningen, who works at the famous Kew Gardens – the Royal Botanic Gardens in London .

Her advice: shovel papers regularly from the aisles across the beds to the left and right. And this brings something in several ways: the leaf layer provides plants with protection from winter frosts and also attracts blackbirds, for example, which, among other things, peck pests from the beds.

The natural winter cover of the leaves also helps the plant’s long-term growth: the leaves gradually decompose and become valuable fertilizer and soil.

“Nature actually has the best recycling system in place. This is unbeatable,” Isabelle van Groningen is excited to collaborate with Nature in the park. People always try to give their garden something better, but they often do it more harm. Because nature actually gives him everything he needs.

This advice cannot be hastily implemented before winter so that wild animals will directly benefit from it. But it’s part of a garden’s long-term transformation into a more animal-friendly sanctuary: They need plants that can provide either shelter or food for animals during the colder months, says van Groningen.

These include trees that contain fruits such as ornamental apples or white blackberries. In addition, trees and shrubs as hedges or solitaires provide winter protection for birds, hedgehogs, and other animals.

A good example of this is ivy: “The ivy is a plant that often upsets people because it climbs over things,” says van Groningen. Many think this is bad. But as a native plant whose flowers last the growing season, ivy and its pollen are very important to insects. Blue and black berries are also an important food source for birds and other small animals.

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