Help the Bees (and Yourself) this Fall

September 1, 2020

Being outdoors has been a refuge for many during the long months of quarantine brought on by COVID-19. And gardening —whether tending a few cherished plants in pots on a stoop, a balcony oasis, or a full-blown yard full of flowers, shrubs and trees—has been an activity that has helped people cope with the stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) has listed the top three reasons why gardening and being in the garden will help to keep you well:

  • Being able to experience nature, which is proven to benefit mental health, cognitive functioning and emotional well-being
  • Reducing depression, anxiety, obesity and heart disease as well as increasing life satisfaction, and quality of life
  • Helps support recovery from illness and can reduce stress, blood pressure and muscle tension

Autumn gardening can be delightful as the temperatures are not as hot as mid summer and there are fewer insects around to deal with as you work. It is also a critical time of year for honey bees as they prepare their hives for winter. Ensuring that your garden is still a haven for them—by having an abundance of fall blooming flowers and an adequate water supply not clogged by leaves and debris will help ensure that honey bees visiting your garden have a better chance of surviving the winter. 

September is also a time to review what worked and what didn’t in your garden this year and doing some end of season maintenance. You could chose to clean and tidy everything up so your garden is well-groomed going into winter or you decide to let some plants go to seed and let the falling leaves remain. Regardless of your gardening philosophy, you will still need to remove anything that is disease- or pest-ravaged so it does not contaminate your garden.

This fall garden checklist is a useful reference for you to help get your garden ready for winter:

  • Take the time to write down what you liked and didn’t like about your garden this year, whether you had any insect or disease issues, and what plants you’d like to add in the spring.
  • Plant fall annuals and pull out fading summer annuals
  • Cut back and transplant perennials if needed.  
  • Plant spring blooming bulbs. Distribute mulch over the soil to prevent squirrels from discovering these new bulbs.
  • Plant cold hardy trees, shrubs and perennials. Cooler days, but warm soil help support healthy root growth.
  • Water evergreens if the soil is dry going into the colder months.  Lack of water can lead to winter-burn of leaves and needles over the winter.
  • Add finely mulched leaves to your lawn by using your lawn mower for a useful and free fertilizer. You should still see the grass, so if you have too many leaves, you will need to rake some of the up.
  • Clean and sharpen your gardening implements before storing them away for the winter.
  • When the temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees (and the honey bees are not leaving their hives), empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them to avoid cracking. Cover any water features with a fine mesh net to keep leaves out and fish safe from hungry birds.
  • Mulch flowerbeds to protect roots and add organic matter to the soil.

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