November 15, 2023 @ 9:37 am | Filed under: Gardening
Yesterday Rilla and I finished filling the bug snug with leaves, grass clippings, flower stems, and twigs. We’ll leave it be now and hope it went up in time to offer shelter to overwintering insects. We may be a bit late for this year, but now we know what to when late summer rolls around next year.
Ideally there would be a lot more twigs and branches among the leaves, but we used what we had in the yard. Flower stalks (we had zinnia, dahlia, rudbeckia, sunflower, and cosmos stems mostly) are excellent to include in the layers because insects can burrow into the stems, especially the hollow ones. Or you can simply leave the stalks in the garden all winter, right where they grew.
The neighbor’s Norway maple has conveniently leaf-mulched the large flower bed in this part of the yard (we call it the back yard, but it’s actually on the side of the house because of this quirky corner lot). The cherry, apple, and Tupelo trees are supplying the sheet-mulching project on the other side of the house. Scott is mightily amused by the way I greedily eye our neighbors’ giant paper bags of raked leaves awaiting compost pickup. I don’t need them—we’ve got plenty—but leaf mulch creates such superb winter habitat and decomposes into fantastically rich compost for your garden beds. The maple’s yellow leaves are rapidly turning brown, but to me they are nothing but gold.
Rilla and I made a bug snug yesterday. I don’t have a photo of it yet (too cozy to get up right now, and anyway if I go downstairs I’ll be swept into The Rest of the Day and this post will float into the drafts pile with the hundreds of other unfinished musings I’ve amassed over the years), so I searched for bug and then bee in my photo library. So. Many. Bee pics. This one isn’t the crispest but the red coneflowers felt more apt for this November morning.
Anyway, the bug snug! You make a tripod of sticks or canes—we used this video to assemble it—and fill it with twigs, leaves, flower stems, grass cuttings, all the wealth summer left behind in your yard. This creates habitat for overwintering insects. Also it’s very cute.
The bug snug is part of our big project: participating in Portland’s Backyard Habitat Certification program. The new house has a biggish corner lot, beautifully landscaped by the former owner (she’s my hero—oh the care and love she lavished on this house!), mercifully pesticide free, with roses and berries and perennials, but also a lot of grass. We’ve begun our project by sheet mulching over the grass along the retaining wall that runs along our corner sides (the front and west sides of the house). I’ve planted a few perennials there and some wildflower seeds, but the main goal for now is to knock back the grass and create beds for planting native shrubs and pollinator plants in the spring.
The kids were surprised when I told them it will likely be two or three years before we get to the Silver certification level, and longer than that to qualify for Gold. For me, the leisurely timeline is a comfort. It’s a puttering project, a little here, a little there, doing what we can do.
Huck has done most of the digging for the south-side border. We’re sheet-mulching over the grass (layers of cardboard, compost, and leaf mulch), but we needed to remove a narrow grass right along the retaining wall so we could tuck the cardboard down, and he’s making another narrow trench to edge the bed. He has discovered that he loves digging. This is excellent news for his mother.