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Do The 'Chop 'N Drop!': Learn The Newest Ways To Prep Your Garden In Tune With Nature

A orange cone in the middle of a pinkish-purple flower
Del Henderson Jr
If you leave the seed cones from flowers like echinachea in your garden for another month, they'll provide food for the birds!

Folks with perennial flower gardens might already have a go-to method for readying their beds for fall and winter, but there are new ways to clean up your plot that are more in tune with nature.

The new thinking includes cutting back plants, removing some old plants and leaving some there.

You can begin to clean out your garden by weeding out quackgrass and adding fertilizer right now, but you needn't do much else. Once the flowers are gone by and summer has turned to fall, the temptation some gardeners face is to get in there and clean everything up, cutting down all the dried flower stems until you've got a tidy garden to overoverwinter. In fact, you should resist that temptation and just leave it!

The flowers that bloomed in the height of summer, especially echinachea, rudbeckia and helenium, now probably have dried seed cones on them. If you leave the seed cones in your garden a bit longer (till maybe November), the chickadees and the goldfinches will use them as a food source.

When you do cut down those withering perennials in another month or so, leave them! If the plants were healthy, they will create a great mulch layer. So, chop them down, cut them up and leave them on the ground in your garden. The perennial roots will be protected through the colder months, and this mulch provides a great spot for beneficial insects to overwinter.

Q: Can you talk more about growing and caring for forests that was mentioned in a segment of Science Friday? — Chris, in Burlington

Growing trees has so many benefits, whether it be in small towns, in cities or in your own landscape. The website iTreeTools.org is a collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, Arbor Day Foundation and other organizations to provide this citizen science-type resource.

The website is great for folks growing trees in their own landscape or in their community: It not only offers tips on the many benefits trees have on air quality and the environment, but also ideas on landscaping with trees, designing with them and their value.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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