Fall Garden Cleanup
After another great season in the garden, the chores are not complete until cleanup is done. It is best to take out the clippers and start cutting, removing and pulling out spent plants. Make sure all the leaves are cleared from structures like tomato cages and trellises. Rinse out and disinfect pots you plan to use again next year. Clean and sharpen garden tools so they are in ideal condition to start off the spring season next year. Beginning with a blank slate will be well worth the time and effort.
When leftover debris is eliminated, the risk of overwintering diseases and insects decrease significantly. If weeds are left in the garden, they will go to seed, and many more problems will arise next year. Do not compost the infested material because it may come back to the garden in the form of fertilizer.
If you would like to start composting, creating a pile in the fall will insure you have product to use in the spring. Turning your trash into treasure can be a great project for the winter months.
Be sure to harvest all usable vegetables and annual flowers before the first frost. Perennial plants can be divided, trimmed back, or left to spread seed and to create winter interest in the landscape.
Only fertilize plants and lawns when they are actively growing. Do not prune trees or shrubs after they have gone dormant.
Be aware that young, thin-barked trees are susceptible to sunscald when sunny warm winter days heat the bark and trick the tissue into becoming active. The tissue is no longer protected from lethal freezing temperatures and can become damaged. Take time to apply light colored tree wraps from the ground to the start of the first branches to protect youthful and recently planted trees. Be sure to remove the wrap in March.
Till soil six to eight inches deep – using a spade or rototiller. It is best to leave rough clots rather than fine till late in the season. This allows the soil to naturally break down during the winter when snow, rain, and freezing-thawing cycles arrive. When spring comes, a light raking is all that is required before planting. If you have hard, compacted clay soil you can add some organic matter at this time. If you are not sure what the soil in your yard is like, contact your local K-State Research and Extension office for instructions on how to collect a soil sample for testing.
Horticulture Extension Agent