It’s OK to be Messy!

Creating a place of refuge for God’s creatures

By Cindy Verbeek

I admit it. I’m a “messy” personality. It drives my type A friends crazy. But when it comes to gardening with creation care in mind, it’s actually better to be messy than to have all your ducks (or carrots) in a row. 

While the primary purpose of a garden is to grow healthy, local, chemical free food for our rambunctious families it can also be a place of refuge for many other parts of creation that we want to encourage. That “mess” is home to creatures like butterflies, salamanders, frogs and other beneficial insects. Here are three ways a messy garden can create spaces in your yard for wildlife.

In the Spring – Wait for the Warmth

The winter chill is gone and you are anxious to get out into the garden. But when it comes to caring for creation you might want to hold off. Some butterflies overwinter as a chrysalid and are still clinging to that dead grass in your messy garden. To give them time to emerge it’s a good rule of thumb to wait until day time temperatures are consistently 10 C to do your spring cleaning. 

This also allows salamanders, toads and ladybugs that have dug themselves just under the soil surface to get out of the way of the spade. Once they are off and running you can spring clean to your hearts content…or not.

Summer – Don’t Clean the Corners

Ground nesting birds like the Junco love messy gardens. They will tuck their nest under a rock or into a mess of grass early in the spring. If you haven’t got to a corner of your garden by the end of May consider leaving it until later in June (or never) to clean it up to allow the babies to hatch and fledge.

In the Fall: Leave the Leaves

Each fall many butterflies tuck themselves into leaf piles and dried grasses to hibernate. Both the Milbert’s Tortoise shell and the Mourning Cloak overwinter in leaf piles as adults. One of the best ways to give them a safe place to be is to rake your leaves up as soon as they fall and then place them on your garden. This prevents them from tucking into a pile on your lawn too soon and getting damaged during raking, and gives you nutrient rich mulch for your garden once it all thaws out.

Learn more about conservation on the Buck Creek Hatchery & Nature Centre Facebook Group.

ladybug in garden
Dark eyed junco at feeder
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