In an earlier article, I suggested chopping up leaves and leaving them on the lawn. Now, I am suggesting to leave the fall landscape clean-up until spring. There are numerous reasons to leave the debris.

One of my first gardening experiences was a 4-H project meeting in the early 1970’s. It was led by Prof L. R. Quinlan from K-State. We were touring the Kansas Landscape Arboretum at Wakefield. He mentioned to let nature aid in management by not picking up the debris.

The dead looking plant tissues and bare ground is home to many beneficial and some non-desirable insects and diseases. These are likely kept in balance as long as the habitat is not disturbed. Removing the “debris” interrupts the balance which is likely not advantageous for the garden.

It would be best to leave it all. This will provide the over-wintering homes for many. Signs point to constant spring temperatures of at least 50 degrees before removal to allow for the beneficials to find their “summer” homes.

Known diseased plant parts would be an exception. My peony leaves had both powdery mildew and measles. Removal of these plant parts and disposal won’t create an imbalance. Non damaged tissues can be left in place.

Many beneficial insects like hollow stems, crevices found in woody stems and grasses for over-wintering. The natural prairie look is becoming more common. That is what is needed for these beneficials to have a winter home.

Perhaps, gardening this way will stop any major out breaks. It will provide habitat for pollinators and other inhabitants of our landscapes. Maybe even less work for the gardener.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the K-State Research and Extension website at You contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension by calling 537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mailing

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