Chop and Drop

I’m resolving to clean up less. I didn’t realize that my fall and spring clean ups of my garden were destroying habitat for creepy crawlies – in truth, it is only recently that I started thinking about my garden as a habitat at all. But now that I see it that way I can’t NOT see it, and I can’t do things the same old way.

Which brings me to the “Chop and Drop” method, which is a compromise between the ideal garden/habitat treatment – leaving all garden debris where they fall (or stand) – and the customary – clear cutting and hauling away everything in a bed, down to the soil or mulch. Chop and drop is exactly what it sounds like, chopping down old stems and stalks and foliage, but instead of hauling it away you let it fall. There will be larvae and hibernators that get chopped in the process, but overall the living creatures and their habitats are left where they are.

I was feeling pretty good about my chop and drop job on the garden this weekend until I read a piece about the life cycle of plant stems and the bees that nest in them. Bees nest in hollow stems, but stems may not be fully hollow and habitable until their second year standing. Which means that we can’t ever really clean up – it isn’t like you can just wait till May, then pull out the duff. The article I read recommended cutting stems to about a foot long and then leaving them year upon year.

So that is what I will try. I am going to redefine “clean up” to mean a Spring (not Fall) activity where I chop stems to about 12 inches, chop up the tops and let them fall, and then leave it all be.

We’ll see how I feel about the aesthetics. It is a garden, after all, and my habitat too.

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