If you’re tired of outdoor chores, it’s tempting to walk away from the garden with a plan to clean it up next spring. But if you want a great veggie garden next year, you’ll be wise to take advantage of this warm weekend by doing some fall clean-up.
Why can’t you just wait until spring? Leaving leaves and debris in the garden gives diseases, fungus and pests a nice place overwinter and come back with a vengeance next spring. A garden that goes to sleep all cleaned up for the winter will wake up healthier in the springtime. There will also be less need to treat for pests and disease.
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Take these steps before you begin the clean-up:
- Harvest root crops like carrots or potatoes that are still in the ground.
- Make a sketch of this year’s garden, before removing any plant debris, that shows what was planted where. Having a sketch of this year’s garden will help you rotate placement of next season’s crops – like tomatoes – that do best when not grown in the same place each year.
- Plant herbs, that will not overwinter outdoors, in containers to bring inside.
Tips for the clean-up
- Remove all old veggies, vines, leaves and other debris from the garden. If leaves from trees blow in, keep them cleaned up as well. All of this decaying plant material makes a nice winter home for insects and disease.
- Remove the weeds, too.
- Most greens, leaves and small plants are fine to pitch in the compost pile. But leave out the weeds whose seeds will get back in the garden when you spread the compost. Also leave out tomato plants as they often carry disease, and large-stemmed vines such as pumpkin as they take too long to decompose.
When the garden is clean, do one last chore that will pay off next spring: work compost into the soil. You can also add straw mulch or grass clippings as mulch on top. Now your garden is nicely tucked in for its long winter’s nap.