Nature on our doorsteps: Letting things stand for winter
The 22-spot Ladybird feeds on plant mildew growing on leaves and stems.

Nature on our doorsteps: Letting things stand for winter

Gardeners usually like to tidy up the garden before winter.

Dead or dying plants are cut back and the last cut of the lawn occurs before the frosts arrive.

These jobs can be important. The removal of old growth allows plants save their energy for next year.

It also helps prevent plant diseases building up over winter.

There are good reasons, however, why we should leave at least some dead plants, or to leave some areas of long grass in our gardens and parks.

As winter approaches, insects look for places in which to survive the winter chill. Adults and larvae will burrow down into grassy tussocks or hide under deep layers of leaves.

Some insect larvae overwinter in cocoons, emerging as adults in springtime

The hollow stems of dead plants are also good places to survive.

Moths and other insects spin a cocoon while butterflies construct a chrysalis. Protected inside, the new adults slowly develop over winter, ready to emerge in springtime.

In mild weather, some insects continue to feed. The lovely 22-spot Ladybird feeds on plant mildew growing on decaying leaves and stems.

Removing all old plant material deprives these Ladybirds of food.

Leaving some seeding flowerheads is also good for the birds, who will come to pick at the seeds or to hunt for overwintering insects.

Being a little ‘untidy’ in the winter garden is therefore good for biodiversity.

By Rosaleen Dwyer.