The cold nights of fall have taken their toll. The last of the summer’s tender crops are reduced to blackened twigs and shrivelled fruit. Time to clean it out, and shut it down.
There are several good reasons to do a fall clean-up, rather than waiting until spring. First, if you take the time now to remove all the dead plant material, you are also removing any insect eggs that might be hanging on. I’m not saying you can completely prevent next year’s batch of plant-munchers, but you can at least delay them.
Second, scooping up all the fallen tomatoes, beans, and other wizened produce from the ground will save you from pulling up out-of-place seedlings by the handful next spring. ‘Mystery tomatoes’ can be fun, but not in the current year’s cucumber patch! And, since you’re already down on the ground with your hands in the dirt, pull the weeds. You would be amazed at how many common weeds can bloom and set seeds in the winter – getting rid of them now breaks the cycle, leaving you with (hopefully) fewer weeds next spring.
Third,leaving your dead veggies in the garden all winter can encourage fungal diseases to spread – especially in regions where winter is wet. If you saw any signs of blight or other plant disease this year, don’t toss the debris in your compost pile. Most don’t ever achieve the internal temperatures needed to kill the pathogens or spores. Instead, bag it up for the garbage man.
I know. It just feels wrong to throw plants in the trash… But you’ll be better off in the long run.
After all the pulling and the tossing is done, it’s time for a nice, warm blanket of compost. No need to turn it in, the winter’s freeze and thaw will do a lot of that for you. As the compost continues to break down over the months to come, it will both feed your soil and serve as a weed barrier. Come spring, you’ll be ready to plant in no time…