21October 3, 2012

The calendar has rolled around to October. The temperatures are beginning to get cooler and soon it will be time to start putting our gardens to bed for the winter.

I know that there are a certain number of you who are relatively new gardeners. You may not have given much thought to the need to clean up your gardens before winter sets in. Cleaning up your gardens is an important part of gardening. Cleaning up your planters is important too. Let me tell you why you need to clean up those gardens and planters.

This summer was the summer of fungus diseases for many gardeners. The first few days of June brought rainy and foggy weather. This constant exposure to moisture on the leaves of plants created an ideal environment for plant diseases. Fungus diseases plagued gardeners all through the summer. The diseased leaves developed spores. Spores are the “eggs” of fungus diseases. The spores will spend the winter on plant debris that is left in the garden or even in your planters. In the spring, when new growth begins in your gardens or shortly after you plant your gardens, spring rains or your watering the gardens, causes the spores to splash up onto the new growth. The spores start to grow and you are off and running with new fungus diseases. Leaving any plant debris in the garden or failing to clean out those containers is an open invitation for fungus diseases to over winter in your yard.

If you have a compost pile that will heat up enough to destroy the spores, you can put diseased plant material into your compost pile. However, since many compost piles do not get hot enough to kill the spores, it is always best to get rid of the diseased materials. I know that this goes against much of the solid waste disposal requirements, but when it comes to diseased plants, I think it is the best option. If you have enough land that is away from your gardens, you could always dig a hole and bury the diseased plants. Either way, don’t let that diseased plant material sit in your gardens or remain in your planters.
Some of you with large vegetable gardens may wish to rototill your gardens in the fall. It might be tempting to till in all the dead plants. After all, this is kind of burying the plants. Not a good idea to till in those plants. The spores will be in the soil and they will be there in the spring to infect your plants. Just get rid of those plants.
Another reason to get rid of plant debris is the debris can be a home for over wintering insects. In the fall, many insects will lay eggs on plant material. Come the spring, the eggs hatch and a new generation of insects will have arrived in your garden. In some cases, the insects themselves will over inter on plant debris. All things considered, you want to get that plant debris out of the garden.

Come this fall when you are raking up the leaves and you are going to take them to the leaf dump, add your plant debris to the leaves and send those diseases on their way. If you have a well working compost pile, you can dispose of the debris in the compost pile. The whole purpose is to minimize the amount of over wintering diseases and insects that can invade your garden in the spring.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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