Fall Clean-up

Fall clean-up.  We all hear the phrase, but what exactly does it mean?

Fall clean-up means removing any dead, diseased or dying material from your gardens at the end of the growing season.

Where to start?  Wherever you’d like.  I typically start at one end of my yard and work my way around, armed with gloves, pruners, clippers, loppers, a large garbage can and bags.

What am I looking for?  To start off with, anything that’s “done”.

Annuals are pretty obvious.  You can take one look at them and say “yep, they’re done”.   Annuals are typically just as dramatic when they’re done as when they’re at their peak.  In other words – pretty darned ugly.  Yank ’em.

Perennials on the other hand, aren’t quite so cut and dried (so to speak).  Obviously if you have ornamental grasses, Asters, etc. that are at peak right now, don’t touch them!  As for perennials that have already passed their peak, start looking for diseased material.  If the plants are “done” and have a disease such as powdery mildew (the white frosty looking film) on their leaves or stems, cut them “way back” (typically to 3-4 inches high) then DISPOSE of the diseased material.  And by dispose, I mean DO NOT put this stuff in your compost bin/pile!  If you leave it and let the leaves eventually fall to the ground powdery mildew spores will get into the soil and increase your chances of having problems again next year. The same applies to compost.  You don’t want those spores in your compost!  Instead, put the diseased material in a tightly sealed garbage bag and toss it in the garbage or burn the plant material in a fire pit (assuming no burning restrictions in your area).

So what if you have perennials that are “done” but still look healthy?  In this case the decision is yours.  Since three-quarters of our year is winter (okay, slight exaggeration..) I like to leave as much as possible for winter interest and food for the birds.  Good examples of this are Black Eyed Susan, Cone Flower, Bee Balm and definitely Ornamental Grasses!  The more texture you can leave in your garden to look out onto during those blustery winter months the better.

What if its none of the above?  Not peaking, not dead, not diseased, but just “done”?  Then what?  In this case cut it back. If it’s not going to add anything to your winter landscape then it’s only going to become more to clean up in the spring.

On to the veggie garden.

When it comes to diseased plants the same rule applies in the veggie garden as it does in the flower garden.  Diseased plants = trash or burn.

Warm season crops (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) have done about all they are going to do. I know, it’s sad, but it’s time for them to go.  Pull them and toss them.

Cool season crops on the other hand might still be doing well.  If you have cool season crops that are still producing, by all means, leave them!

One good example of this is Brussel Sprouts.  Brussel sprouts like the cool weather and actually taste better when they’ve been nipped by frost 6-8 times.  They can even withstand mild winter temps, even if buried in snow!  The bonus?  Instead of tasting bitter like they often can, the frost/cold draws the sugars out and they will be super tasty!  How can you tell if they have been nipped by frost and are “ready to eat”?  The outer edges of the leaves will have a purple tinge to them.

Pull any other crops that are not perennials (asparagus, strawberries, etc.) and not producing and clean up all leaf litter to minimize future disease.

That’s about it.  Once it’s clean, your garden is going to look a little bare, at least until the snow flies!

Kate

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: