As we’re preparing for winter around the farm, it’s tempting to “clean-up” the fall perennials by cutting all the weedy stalks and seed heads off. But, by doing less and leaving medium to tall perennials in place, we can provide winter food for the birds and observe them more too.
Leave perennials like asters, black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, coneflowers, Joe-Pye weed, oat grass, and goldenrod standing in the fall garden after they finish blooming.
The cardinals, finches, and sparrows will harvest seed while clinging to the stalks; and the juncos or towhees will harvest seed from the ground.
Even after the seeds have all been harvested, the spent perennials still provide nourishment for the birds. Chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers will continue to harvest overwintering insects, eggs, and pupae from the stems throughout winter – providing much-needed protein during winter months.
It’s a win-win situation; less clean-up in the fall, more food for the birds, more birdwatching for us, and easier clean-up of weathered stalks in spring.