With a shift in the weather coming this weekend in Western Montana, you might find yourself wanting to start some spring cleaning, and not just inside but outside in your yard, too.

It's tempting to rake up the dead leaves that may have been left behind or to prune flowers to encourage new growth. Many seasoned gardeners or professional gardening magazines will recommend which plants should be pruned at this time of year. Lavender, which is grown in a lot of areas of Montana is one such plant.

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Even if it's not about creating optimal conditions for a perennial to bloom, aesthetically, it often looks better when the dead flowers, grasses, and leaves are cleared to make room for new growth.

But there's an important reason why you should fight the urge to do any spring yard cleanup right now.

Protect the Pollinators

This is a practice I've followed in my garden for years for this exact reason, but I received a timely reminder from Missoula Compost in a recent newsletter and thought I'd pass the wisdom along.

If you clean up dead leaves and plants this early in the season, you may be putting local pollinator species at risk. These helpful creatures spend the winter hiding under the same leaves you may want to throw in a burn pile or toss in your compost bin. But if you do, you're throwing away the habitats that some bugs, butterflies, and moths depend on.

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It's not that you can't clean up your yard, it's just a good idea to wait until temperatures are consistently warm enough for the pollinators to find other "lodging" so to speak.

How Long You Should You Wait? 

It's mostly dependent on the weather, but you can use the last frost date estimates as a guide. If the ground is warm enough to plant, it's probably close to warm enough for pollinators to do what they do best: pollinating.

If you want to be sure, wait until you see bees, butterflies, etc. frequenting the buds on your shrubs or flowering trees.

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