House & garden

Natural gardens in autumn: Gardening in the rhythm of nature offers so much abundance

Maintaining a natural garden over the year is a challenge, but at the same time a very fulfilling hobby. With all its splendor of colors, autumn has now come to the country. If you want to protect your green oasis from frost, you started weeks ago to make your balcony, terrace and garden winterproof. But that doesn’t mean that the green spaces around the house have to fall asleep by spring. Natural gardens in particular offer enormous potential in autumn and can make a valuable contribution to bringing native plants and animals through the cold season.

More than unbridled wild growth

natural garden leaves rake in november

Natural gardens are enjoying growing popularity. They convey a feeling of originality and support biodiversity in a very natural way. A natural garden is much more than an area in which all kinds of plants and animals spread unrestrainedly. Natural gardens create space for life and growth in the rhythm of nature. They are a habitat for many animal and plant species and that is precisely why they inspire with their splendor of colors.

A natural garden should contain a particularly large number of native plant species. The greatest possible biodiversity attracts beneficial insects such as insects, birds, small mammals and reptiles. Many of them, however, specialize in native plants for their food sources. A natural garden should offer this all year round if possible.

Pond in the natural garden as a habitat for animals and plants

The more diverse the structures of the gardens are, the more extensive are the habitats offered to animals and plants. Trees and bushes and natural hedges, wet biotopes, water points, grassy areas, flowering plants, a compost heap, all of these are nesting places, sources of food and places of retreat for many animal species. Perennials, beds and dead wood hedges give the garden structure and create completely natural subdivisions that are also visually attractive.

The natural garden develops in the rhythm of nature. Any intervention should be carried out to the smallest possible extent and taking into account the natural conditions and requirements. Anyone who engages in the natural garden experiment and leaves room for natural growth and development will be rewarded by an impressive biodiversity, can watch the seasons come and go right outside the window and also give a habitat for a variety of native animals and plants. “Environmental and species protection do not take place anywhere – but on your own doorstep,” says biologist Uwe Westphal in conversation with GEO. “And a natural garden is not only a species-appropriate habitat for many wild animals, but also for humans.”

Garden waste such as leaves, brushwood or dead wood are not disposed of in the natural garden

When gardening in natural gardens, the principle applies: less is more. This means, for example, that garden waste such as leaves, brushwood or dead wood is not disposed of, but piled up in a suitable place to offer various animal species a place to retreat. Restraint is also the order of the day when it comes to lawn care. The lawnmower is used less often in the natural garden and the cutting height is also set a few centimeters higher. In the deeper grass, a large number of microorganisms have a habitat that is destroyed by too frequent lawn mowing. Natural gardeners should avoid fertilizing and scarifying as much as possible. Many native plant species prefer nutrient-poor soil, which can be created naturally in this way.

While many ornamental gardens are carefully prepared for hibernation in autumn, the natural garden has yet another very special potential. With just a few simple steps, the oasis can now be transformed into winter quarters for many animal and plant species and at the same time prepares for the restart of nature in spring.

This is how the natural garden becomes winter quarters

near-natural garden in autumn is the ideal winter quarters for hedgehogs

When temperatures drop, many native species need a place to overwinter. A natural garden offers many possibilities for this. The gardener doesn’t have much work to do. In many places it is enough to hold back and let nature take its course.

Falling leaves and dead wood from hedges, bushes and trees are the ideal winter quarters for insects, worms and small mammals. Especially under hedges and bushes, the layer of foliage should simply remain so that it can form a protective cover. The soil under the leaves remains moist and thus offers the ideal habitat for worms and insects. Leaves that fall on beds and lawns can be swept up and piled in a pile. Piles of leaves are preferred winter quarters for small mammals such as hedgehogs and mice. A pile of leaves should ideally be piled up in a sheltered spot in the garden. To protect microorganisms, it is best to carefully rake the foliage together and not to work with a leaf blower.

Set up feeding places for birds and squirrels in autumn

As soon as the first frost arrives, feeding places for birds and squirrels can be set up. Small wooden houses that are accessible from several sides and that are set up or hung in a sheltered but easily accessible place are suitable. In the branches of trees or in hedges, the feeding places are protected from the weather and can also be reached by climbing squirrels. Of the Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. (NABU) has provided simple instructions on how to build bird feeders on its website and also gives useful tips on winter feeding birds and small mammals. Water points or bird baths are also important in winter. You should stand in a sheltered place, especially in winter, so that the water does not freeze over so easily.

Looking forward to the awakening of spring

Leave the fruit stands on perennials and in beds in autumn

As early as autumn and winter, nature takes precautions for a new start in spring. Natural gardeners can support them in this. Restraint is required when pruning plants. Garden experts recommend leaving the fruit stands on perennials and in beds in autumn. In winter they serve as a source of food for birds through dry seed stands and a habitat for many microorganisms that can overwinter in the dry plant stems. Wild bees prefer to lay their offspring in the remains of perennial plants. Moderate pruning not only makes the gardener’s work easier, but also makes an important contribution to preserving biodiversity.

If you want to provide birds and worms with additional food for the barren winter months, you can plant cold germs and bare-root bushes in autumn. Depending on the structure of the garden and the space available, ground-covering variants or tall and climbing cold germs can be selected. Individual perennials can also be planted well in autumn before the frost comes. There is a large selection here with different flowering times, which provide many local microorganisms with a source of food all year round.

Plant bulbs in the ground in autumn

Autumn is also the time, to bring early bloomers into the ground. Bulb flowers should be planted before the first frost. Popular native species are snowdrops, tulips, squill, hyacinths, crocuses, and winterlings. The perennial beds, which are empty in the cold season, are the ideal place. Plant bulbs should always be placed twice as deep in the ground as they are tall. So they are protected from the frost and can unfold their splendor in spring. This preparation for the spring awakening is important, because the first flowers are not only beautiful to look at, they also serve as an important source of food for bees, bumblebees and butterflies after the long winter break.

Green manuring in autumn with Phacelia strengthens vegetable plants

If you want to grow vegetables in spring, you should start green manure in autumn. This means the sowing of suitable plants that cover the empty soil and bind the last nutrients that would otherwise be washed out in winter. In this way, the soil can be enriched with new nutrients for spring in autumn. Green manure primarily enriches the soil with nitrogen. In addition, the roots of the sown plants loosen the soil through the winter months. Suitable green manure plants are oil radish, sunflowers, field beans, winter rye, lupins, phacelia, sweet peas or yellow clover. The green manure is worked flat into the soil in spring about four weeks before the new sowing and prepares it optimally for the more demanding crops.

Natural garden in autumn with a hammock and two chairs

Image sources: