Untidy Gardens Make Good Winter Wildlife Habitat

By Shane Gibson, Environmental Education Director


An untidy winter garden

Passers-by may look at the prairie I planted, the ditch in front of my house, and the flowerbeds and wonder why I didn’t tidy up those areas this fall. There was a reason for leaving the stems and seed heads.  A quick view out of my windows provides the evidence.

Birds in the garden

There hasn’t been a day this year that these areas have not been utilized by the birds and other wildlife. Winter accentuates the need for food and shelter that these areas provide. Under the black-eyed Susan seed heads it is as littered with tracks and debris as under the thistle feeder sunflower feeder. The clumps of northern sea oats, wood pile, and eastern red cedar provide refuge.

This spring I will trim back the flower beds around my house and each morning will look for new growth as I sip my coffee. But I won’t trim all them stems to ground level. I will leave twelve inches or so of the woody stem for native bees that can lay their eggs in the pithy stem. Soon the new growth will cover the old stems and you will never know they are there.

Until then, I’ll enjoy sipping my morning coffee and the beauty of the towhee, bluebird, wren, finch, and more sharing this winter wonderland.

Enjoy Yourself, Enjoy Nature


As the winter season turns to spring, you may be already be dreaming of summer gardens to come. Check out this blog post written by Shane in 2015 about what wildflowers to put in your garden to benefit wildlife and pollinators: