This article was published originally on 12/7/2011
It's not too late to give your garden some TLC! Many of us forget about gardening as soon as temperatures drop and leaves fall off trees, but a good end-of-season clean up can save a lot of headaches next year. Many disease-causing organisms like fungi and bacteria overwinter in dead plants and diseased leaves. This is why pulling out dead plants and raking leaves in fall is a great way of reducing common garden diseases on veggies, ornamentals, and shade trees the following season.
Good fall sanitation practices include removing dead plants, leaves, and pruning diseased plants or trees. Make sure all plant remains are destroyed (by burying or tilling) or removed from the garden, especially if diseases were present this year.
When pruning, cut back 6 to 12 inches below the diseased tissue and always remember to disinfect tools after use!
Tools can be disinfectedby using 70% alcohol or by soaking tools 3 to 5 minutes in bleach. Dilute 1 part of bleach in 9 parts of water.
Do not compost diseased tissues unless compost pile reaches at least 90-140 F for 2 to 3 weeks. Monitor temperature using a candy or meat thermometer.
It is also a good time to plan where to plant your annuals next year. Try to rotate or avoid planting the same crop in the same place, as this also reduces the chances of disease.