Benefits of an Untidy Garden

I’ve been a gardener for years, over thirty to be exact and one of my least favorite garden chores was to clean up  in the fall. I felt guilty if I did not do it. I thought people would think I was a “bad” gardener if they saw my untidy garden during the fall and winter months. I was embarrassed by my laziness. It turns out, I was actually a very “good” gardener as I was leaving things in place that would help me with next year’s garden. My lack of desire to clean up provided lots of areas for beneficial insects to hibernate and overwinter and provided seeds for birds.

Over the years I have studied about the interconnectedness of things. All things are interconnected. In reality, humans are the only expendable component in the equation. If humans were not on this earth, the flora and the fauna would survive just fine, if not better without us. But we are here and it is incumbent upon us to do our part not to destroy life for other living things. In order for humans to survive, we must ensure the survival of ALL living things; plants, insects, birds, animals, fungi, etc.

Messy Garden Equates to Life

By leaving plant debris, we are creating habitats for overwintering insects that will preform biological controls next growing season. These insects will keep pests from destroying our crops, thereby reducing the need for chemicals. We are leaving the chrysalis of butterflies and moths and the ground nests of pollinating insects that will pollinate our flowers and our vegetables. By allowing these insects to overwinter, in addition to what they provide for us, they are providing food for other insects, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. All of which provide additional benefits for the garden. Over recent years I have been seeing articles addressing the issue of declining bird populations. Yes, loss of habitat is one of the contributing causes, but there has also been a major decline in the insect populations. Without insects, the birds who survive on insect protein have nothing to feed their young. Some avian species require over 500 caterpillars a day to feed their growing chicks. Leave the tent caterpillars alone, they won’t damage the trees and they feed several species of birds.

I want my garden to be ecologically balanced – the right amount of pests and predators, plants and pollinators. I want to work smarter, not harder and I don’t want to have to use chemicals. By allowing nature to take care of herself and find the balance she needs each year, I realize less pest pressure and more substantial harvests. All while working a lot less.

Speaking of working a lot less, an additional reason for leaving things like leaf litter and small twigs / branches in the garden is they break down and provide nutrients for my soil. Better garden soil means a better environment for things like mychorrhizal fungi, beneficial nematodes, earth worms, rollie-pollie bugs, less weeds, and better / healthier plants. Decomposing roots provide habitat for worms which consume other decomposing material, leaving nutrient rich worm castings as they aerate my soil.

I want my garden to be a habitat for birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects alike. By providing food and shelter for these beneficial species, I am doing more to ensure my garden is successful. It takes less maintenance on my part if I allow “nature to take it’s course” by practicing a “live and let live” method of gardening. I do this by leaving leaf litter and garden debris to overwinter; providing a more natural habitat for the life forms that bring me so much pleasure during the warmer months.

In Summary

The benefits of continuing to practice the “Just Say No to Fall Garden Cleanup”, are as follows:

Less work,

Better soil,

Healthier plants,

Supports insect, bird, amphibian, and reptile populations,

Better harvests,

and a more

Beautiful world around me. zucchino rampicante squash blossoms





Additional Reading

For the Birds – talks about the importance of caterpillars

Predatory Wasps – the importance of predatory insects in the garden (aka – biological control)

Life Cycle – the life cycle of insects and amphibians

Do you practice the art of leaving your garden messy? Let me know whether you have noticed positive benefits as a result of doing so. As always, I think you for stopping by today. Have a beautiful day.

10 thoughts on “Benefits of an Untidy Garden

Add yours

  1. Really thanks for explaining this. Not everyone thinks that nature is a cycle and that this cycle has reasons to be like it is! Also, I am happy you stressed that every living being is connected to others, and to ensure every living being continues to live balance is needed! Also, the pictures are stunning! The one with the snow is wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We’ll I’m with you, I leave a messy garden in the fall and winter also! We have soany leaves that fall in Lia’s rose garden but if I peek under them I see little bugs and worms (which Lia loves) keeping warm. Thanks for the great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Leaves are one of the best things for a garden. I can never have enough leaves. I use them for mulching, and mixing in with compost. I bet Lia’s rose garden has amazing soil.


  3. Thanks for sharing this insightful post about the cycles of nature and the importance to maintain balance to guarantee the survival of all living beings. I particularly appreciate the fact that you mention everything is connected. The pictures (especially the one with the snowy landscape) are amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Somethings are better left in their original form or state – case in point, the garden. Leaving it natural and untended during the off-season like that allows natural regeneration and a time for healing. The garden is also a wonderful analogy for life!

    I love the winter image on top. If that is in fact your garden, I love it!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel a lot better about my garden beds after reading this. I have a twinge of guilt every time I walk by, but now I’m gonna tell myself that I’ve left them there like that on purpose! A few times I’ve thought about doing more cleanup, but I do want some of the seeds that dropped to germinate, so I’ve left them there.

    Great way of thinking!

    Ridge Haven Homestead

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Jen –

    I have a garden space, but haven’t planted anything if a couple years. I most definitely would fall into the messy garden category, out of laziness. What a great post. I so appreciated your explanation about how doing what came naturally to you wound up being a benefit to the whole ecosystem.

    Best –


    Liked by 1 person

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