Gardening Season Ends with Fall Clean-up

Clearing out all vegetable garden debris is the first step toward next summer’s healthy plants.

Fall Garden Cleanup2 blogYou think I’d be glad to pull up the dead summer squash foliage after the ups and downs of growing it this year.

Early on I complained about the fruit not setting and having to pollinate the squash by hand.

Then I complained because I had so much yellow squash I had to find new ways to use it in the kitchen.

Now that it’s all gone, I’m a little wistful.

I loved looking out my office window and seeing a green and growing garden, that was alive with butterflies, bees and birds. Around here the time to enjoy it is so short compared to the amount of time the garden is empty of plants and pollinators.

But there’s still plenty to do in the garden now and it starts with raking up every bit of garden debris to put the vegetable garden to bed.

It’s important to clean up all the dead foliage every fall, because garden pests and plant diseases can overwinter in garden debris and cause problems in the garden next year.

If you had early blight or powdery mildew this season, be sure to be thorough with fall garden clean-up. These steps also help to prevent viruses, thrips, and problem beetles:

  • Pull up plants and weeds, roots and all.
  • Shred and compost the healthy plant material; bag weeds and any diseased leaves and dispose of them.
  • Rake up all remaining plant debris.
  • Till soil deeply.
  • Rake fallen tree leaves from lawn areas and shred with mulching lawn mower; add a thick layer of these healthy leaves to garden bed.
  • Turn leaves deeply into bed to help improve soil fertility for next gardening season.
  • Leave the bed with a rough surface to expose any lingering pests to the elements.

Extra time spent cleaning up the garden now, will make for a healthier garden next year.


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I’m with you on being wistful about the end of the season. With such a late start this summer, it’s hard to say goodbye. We have snow on the ground, and single digit temperatures on the way. No fun! I still need to clean up my garden at home, plus the plots at the community garden. We’re going to try composting in large bins – maybe next fall we’ll have good organic matter to incorporate back into the soil. Do you chop up your leaves before adding them, or do you find they break down fine by spring?
Stay warm!

Stop sending us your cold fronts! One is heading our way today–so temps will be 30 degrees colder than yesterday with a possibility for snow. You’re right that this season was extra-short…I still have blossoms on some of my tomato plants.

I use the mulching mower on my fallen leaves because it makes quick yard work, but leaves would probably breakdown fine without shredding.

Yes…please clean up last years debris…I wish my fellow community gardeners would do that…so I didn’t have to clean up their stuff and my stuff…doh!So many people just kind of throw in the towel half way through the season…sigh…

I certainly understand how easy it is to throw in the “trowel” at the end of the season. Maybe some gardeners don’t realize how important it is to the health of their gardens to do cleanup every year. Many community gardens have written rules to make sure everyone knows what’s expected–including how to get vegetable beds ready for winter.

I’m in agreement with all of the comments – fall cleanup is one of the most important chores in gardening. Composting as much as possible is crucial, but I’m finding Home Owner Associations don’t like the sight of piles of debris. So folks are stuck with the plastic bins that hide the refuse, but take forever to compost it down. Compost needs air, so the open piles or corrals are better. Perhaps people living in HOAs could just accessorize with signs that say “Nature in progress…thanks for your patience.”

Your “Nature in Progress” signs are a terrific idea. Come to think of it, I could use that sign in my front yard today as the leaves have started raining down from the trees.

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