17November 16, 2011
The leaves appear to have begun their annual ritual of making a mess of your yard. I remember the first house we had was the low spot in the neighborhood. All of the leaves tended to blow into the backyard. One year, we kept track of how long it took to rake up the leaves. It took us 40 hours. Raking leaves became, literally, a full time job.
Cleaning up the yard at this time of the year is extremely important to the health of next year’s plants. If you think back to the spring and summer, there were probably fungus diseases that grew on some of your plants. Apple scab on the crabapple tree. Powdery mildew on the tall phlox. Rust on the hollyhocks. Blight on your tomato plants. Black spot on the rose bushes. Different diseases infected all kinds of plants. As the leaves drop off these plants, the leaves become a source of infection for next year’s plants. Fungus diseases that die off due to the cold weather form spores. Spores are the eggs for next year’s diseases. The spores cling to the leaves as the leaves drop off the plants. If you allow those leaves to sit in the flower beds or to sit under the trees or rosebushes, the spores will splash up onto the new leaves as soon as we get rainy weather in the spring. If you clean up this debris this fall, you can minimize the amount of diseases that can easily start up in your yard next spring.
It is not just the leaves that can cause problems with diseases in the spring. The squash vines that you leave in the garden will be a source for powdery mildew in the spring and summer. Even the stalks of perennials can harbor fungus disease spores. In some cases, insects will spend the winter in the debris that you leave in the garden. With the holidays rapidly approaching, you need to set aside some time now to do a thorough clean up in your yard. You should cut back most of your perennials. You should remove all of the old plants from your vegetable garden. Remove all of the dead annual flowers from the window boxes and other planters. Rake up all the leaves that fall off the trees, particularly those trees that had problems with fungus diseases this summer and fall. The time you spend now cleaning up the yard will pay big dividends come next spring and summer.
Fall is a time to put the gardens to bed for the winter. Cleaning up the plant debris makes for an easier time next year because you will be combating less diseases and in some cases less insects.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.