Fall Clean Up in the Fruit and Vegetable Garden
The cool days of autumn are a great time to get outside and do some garden cleanup. By getting rid of leftover plant debris in flower beds and the vegetable garden, you can reduce the risk of some common problems next year.
Several disease-causing bacteria and fungi over winter on plant debris and are present to cause diseases the following growing season. Common garden diseases that can be managed by fall sanitation include strawberry leaf spot, black rot of grapes and leaf spots of tomatoes caused by the fungal pathogens Septoria and Alternaria.
To fight back against diseases, remove all plant material from the garden, with the exception of winter vegetables or cover crops. In the fruit and vegetable garden, it is especially important to carefully dig up and remove decomposing roots to prevent the release of disease-causing microbes into the soil. Remove mummified fruits on or around fruit trees and grapevines. In the flower bed, remove spent blooms and foliage. These plant materials could all be harboring disease pathogens.
Some insect pests can be reduced in the fall as well. Insects such as twig girdlers over-winter in tree branch debris and many plant pathogens can survive the winter in fallen leaves, residual stalks and rotten fruit in the garden. Raking up and removing this debris will reduce the insects emerging next spring.
If you have a backyard compost pile, the garden debris you remove is a great addition. A well maintained pile will heat up and completely decompose the debris in a few years. The heat-up process will destroy most disease-causing organisms.