Thursday, September 22 is the autumnal equinox, astronomically the day when the sun crosses the celestial equator heading south. From this point until the first day of winter, days will get shorter. The time of the year usually ushers in cooler weather, which is a good reminder to start cleaning up the garden. Referred to as garden sanitation, cleaning up is a good way to reduce next year’s pest problems.

“Sanitation” is the removal of plant material that can harbor pests and disease-causing organisms.  By removing debris from your garden at the end of the growing season you reduce the ability for pests and diseases to impact next spring’s garden. Removing spent plants, structures, and dead or diseased branches promotes air movement that in turn can reduce overwintering pests and disease. 

Fall cleanup tips:

  • Remove stakes, row covers, and other man-made objects
  • Pull out annual edible plants that are done for the season
  • Pick up and discard fallen fruit
  • Remove weeds
  • Trim any apparent dead or diseased branches

If you have an active compost pile, DO NOT add diseased or infested material to it.  Most home compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill disease-producing organisms and weed seeds. 

Gardeners used to rake up all autumn leaves, bag them up and discard them.  That’s throwing away precious fertilizer!  If you have leaves from healthy trees and shrubs that end up on the ground, you can leave them in place to break down on their own, just like Mother Nature does.  Or, add them to your compost pile. 

The goal of autumn clean isn’t to have a pristine space.  A little messiness, piles of branches or untrimmed shrubs around the edges of a garden, provides refuge for birds and mammals.  You just want to remove the key ingredients for problems next spring.

Finally, remember to sanitize your garden tools.  Here’s some information on basic tool care,

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