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Apr. 16, 2021 | Friday
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Keeping it Green: Early spring gardening: Let sleeping bugs lie
Native bees and a Little Wood Satyr butterfly, which overwinter in garden debris. (Kyra Simone)

Kyra Simone

Special to The Lake Report

Spring is just beginning and the world seems ready to wake up and come back to life. Though many of us are itching to get a head start in the garden, some critters are still slumbering in the flower beds.

Many insects overwinter in dead plant material and remain dormant until it's warmer. Butterfly and moth cocoons may be hidden among fallen leaves, and most native bee species stay warm underground.

Gentle gardening practices can maintain this crucial biodiversity and make sure our favourite plants continue to be pollinated year after year.

STILL CHILLY: It is best to leave any cleanup until it's consistently above 10C, day and night. In the Niagara area, it's possible to get frost even two weeks into May.

Both overwintering insects and our prized garden plants should be protected from cold snaps. Leaving decaying material can insulate plants in the event of an unexpected April snowfall.

Pruning now can damage plants. When cut stems fill with water, temperatures that dip below freezing can cause injury or dieback.

CAREFUL CLEANUP: If you must start tidying, carefully place collected leaves or branches somewhere on your property until insects can safely emerge in the correct environment.

You'll be delighted to see many birds stopping by to collect sticks and grasses for their nests. Bundles of stems can even be left out through the summer: native bees will nest in the hollow centres.

During this spring cleaning, roots can be left in the ground. This lets the garden re-absorb nutrients and makes it less likely for new weeds to sprout by maintaining soil structure.

Covering the ground with mulch right now might block emerging insects. It is also a bit too early for plants to use excess nutrients, so hold off on fertilizer.

It's also still too cold and damp to get your hands dirty in the soil. Working in the garden, walking on the lawn, or using a lawnmower frequently can compress wet soil and may cause future issues with drainage and root growth.

BUSY BEES: If you're eager to put your green thumbs to good use, now is a perfect time to think ahead so that your little oasis can flourish.

Houseplants will benefit from additional nutrients now that the days are getting longer. Bird feeders can be cleaned to reduce mould and disease spread. Then put them back outside to welcome the newcomers returning from their migration.

Early spring is an ideal time to start growing food garden plants indoors in sanitized containers.

Tomato and pepper seeds can be planted now, so they're ready to transplant outside after the risk of frost has passed. Celery, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower can be started inside in April.

While giving our backyard bugs a little time to sleep in, thoughtful planning and tidying will guarantee that everything comes up roses later this spring.

Kyra Simone is a NOTL-born nature lover with a master's degree in biology. In her spare time, she advocates for sustainable change, picks up garbage, makes recycled jewelry, and transforms furniture bound for the landfill.

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