3 Good Reasons to Keep A Messy Garden

Embrace the mess this fall, and stop obsessing about cleaning everything up! Keeping a messy garden will not only reduce your workload, but your garden will be healthier for it…

Are you obsessed with keeping your garden clean and neat? Maybe it’s time to loosen up a little! The truth is, sometimes allowing a bit of “mess” into your garden can be a good thing.

For example, companion planting is a great way to help reduce pests and diseases in the garden, but it can create a slightly more “messy” look when you combine different types of plants into one bed or growing container.

Here are 3 good reasons to keep a somewhat messy garden:

1.) It Creates Habitat

Leaving some “mess” in your garden is important for creating a habitat for beneficial insects such as ladybugs and other garden friends. According to this article from The Grow Network,

By letting patches of plants sit, you create habitats—and ladybugs aren’t the only creatures that will benefit.

You’ll also create space for praying mantises, lacewings, wheelbugs, lizards, frogs, toads, centipedes, spiders, worms, and pollinators like moths, butterflies, bees, and wasps.

Beyond leaving weeds and spent plants around, you can also add rock piles, logs, stacks of sticks, and water sources to your gardens.

2.) It Confuses Pests

This relates to the companion planting method we mentioned above. By planting things that pests don’t like in between the things they do, it can confuse them or even deter them from chowing down in the first place. It may also mask the scent of their preferred plants, making it harder to find the crops they like to eat.

Many pests are host-specific, which means they only like to eat certain plants. Mix up the menu with plants they can’t eat—or ones that might even be toxic to them—and your garden goes from being a bug buffet to an outlet condemned by the Arthropod Health Department.

Herbs, flowers, beans, greens, climbers, creepers, and shrubs all have their place in a home garden: mix them up and you’ll mix up the pests, too.

Companion planting is a great way to diversify your garden by attracting beneficial insects, while deterring the pests. It may look a little “messy,” but if you can look beyond that, you’ll begin to see the wild beauty that diversity brings.

3.) It Enriches the Soil

If you’re used to pulling every single plant out of the garden at the end of the season and composting them, you might not realize how many nutrients you’re removing from the soil. Not only do decomposing roots feed the soil, but they also help to aerate the soil and prevent compaction over the winter.

Don’t get me wrong – compost is obviously awesome, and you should add some to your garden at the start of every growing season, but why not save yourself a bit of work and let some of your plants just compost in place?

Fallen leaves are a great ground cover and mulch, and they also add lots of nutrients back to the soil as they decompose. Even weeds can have their place in the garden:

Another “mess” that’s good for the soil: weeds! It’s good to let some greenery cover the ground, even if it’s not anything you can eat (though some weeds are delicious).

Obviously, you don’t want to let pigweed or other noxious plants go to seed in your garden beds; but you don’t have to be a stickler about keeping the soil bare between plantings. At the very least, toss some cover crop seed down on areas you’re not using.

Cover crops are another good example. They may look a little messy (especially if you use a mix of varieties), but they help keep the soil covered, reduce erosion, and can be used as a “green manure” and chopped down or turned into the soil when you’re ready to plant again.

Now, this is not to say that you should let everything that wants to grow in your garden run rampant. Noxious or invasive weeds should obviously be removed. So should diseased or pest-infested plants. But it’s okay to loosen up a bit and allow a bit of mess in your garden. After all, nature often knows best, and when was the last time you saw nature being neat?


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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