Fall clean up is good for the garden

Winterize Your Garden

By now, most gardens have suffered from early fall frost and it’s full of dead plants, unpicked veggies, leaves and other debris.  It’s tempting to leave this debris for the spring clean-up effort – but there are some good reasons why fall garden clean-up should be a must-do chore on your list.  

Amy Bales, representing Associated Landscape Contractors, has several good reasons why fall clean-up is good for the garden and some tips on what you should and should not do.
 
Other than making the garden look neat and clean, why do you recommend cleaning up the veggie garden now?
Old leaves and plant debris can harbor diseases, fungus and pests over the winter.  To avoid perpetuating these problems, it’s best to clean out the dead plant debris.  That gets your garden off to a much better start next growing season.
 
Where do you start?
If you have a kitchen garden, keep herbs in place like sage, chives and oregano because they will winter over and come back next spring.  Harvest some now to use.  Other herbs like some varieties of oregano, basil and rosemary won’t over winter, so put them in pots to bring indoors and enjoy over the winter.
 
When you clean out the dead plants, can they all go in the compost pile?
You can compost any material that is not diseased or pest ridden.  Tomatoes are one plant that often has problems, so you may want to skip them altogether.  Also avoid large stemmed plants like pumpkins because their stems take so long to decompose.  Plants like greens decompose easily and are great for the compost.
 
If leaves from nearby trees fall into the garden, should they be removed?
Yes. Leaves can encourage fungus problems in the soil and are a haven for pests.  So if the leaves are from the veggies or trees, it’s best for the soil to get them out of your garden in the fall.
 
Are there things we should do specifically to help the soil?

There are two things you can do in the fall to get your garden off to a great start next spring:
·      Next year’s crop will benefit from working compost into the soil now.  How much to add and how to work it in.  This helps to replenish nutrients and build up the soil.
·      Putting a black plastic over the soil will help deal with pest/disease issues you may have had and also warm up the soil for planting early season greens next spring.
 
How can straw help winterize your garden?
Straw mulch also keeps moisture and heat in the soil and if you are leaving root crops, like carrots, in the ground for awhile longer, it helps to protect them, too.