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Reasons to Procrastinate Your Spring Garden Cleanup (Really!)

Don't start your spring cleaning too early! If you're anything like me, you're probably looking for reasons to procrastinate cleaning. Well, look no further, because there is one important reason you should wait.


Do you ever wonder where pollinators go in the winter? They're most likely still in your garden! Many bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects hide through the winter in dead plants. Some pollinators overwinter as larvae, while others are brave enough to overwinter as adults. The caterpillars of moths and butterflies roll themselves in dead leaves or burrow inside of branches. Adults typically find somewhere dry and safe (usually around plant debris) to ride out the winter, and then emerge once warmer spring temperatures arrive. 


Butterflies, moths, and caterpillars survive the cold temperatures by entering diapause, a hibernation-like state. Their bodies create an excess of glycerol, which serves a similar purpose as antifreeze. This allows them to tough out cold temperatures, and even a little snow! The air temperature, time since last freeze, and daylight length all contribute to when they wake up from their slumber. 


While we may be ready to enjoy the new season and warmer temperatures in the garden, not all the pollinators are ready. Trimming and removing dead stems and leaves too early in spring can disturb your snoozing pollinators. Here in Michigan, it's still too soon to remove debris. We even discovered a chrysalis on an Itea branch outside our office just this week.


Wait to remove any plant litter from your garden until daily temperatures are reliably above 50 degrees. However, if you want to get a head start, you can still trim your plants and store debris in piles in your garden. Protect this year's butterflies, moths, and other pollinators by giving them extra time to hit snooze. They'll reward you throughout the season by continuing the lifecycle of your flowers. 

Pile of plant debris in a garden

If you have questions, let us know! Comment your questions below or reach out through our contact us page. We have a team of horticulturalists who are here to help!

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