Clean-up time for your garden

Burpee - Edible Gardening Team Members
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Once your vegetables have been hit by frost, production usually comes to a halt. This means tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and other warm-season varieties. Some vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, actually become more flavorful with a few low temps, and cabbages, kales and some lettuces enjoy the chill as well. But winter in many parts of the country takes hold eventually, and cleanup time begins.

We had our first frosty morning today in Chicagoland! And if your area is experiencing brisk weather, too, that means it’s now time to think about the necessary vegetable garden cleanup to ensure the next growing season is just as successful.

  • One of the first steps to take is to record your garden’s layout; knowing what you planted this season and where helps out a lot during the next growing season. Natural crop rotation helps control possible diseases and increases soil nutrition.
  • Next, clear away any damaged or diseased plants. Bacteria in these plants can fester over winter in the soil and contaminate next year’s plants. Send diseased material off-site with the rest of your landscape disposal. Leftover healthy plant material that has died after the frost can be safely composted.
  • To reduce the risk of early blight, remove tomato plants (roots and all). Dead foliage and vines should also be cleared away to discourage squash bugs, cucumber beetles, rodents, and others pests from thriving over winter.
  • Store cages, trellises, containers and other garden items outdoors. In the spring, give them a quick cleansing using a 10% bleach solution.
  • After all the plants and garden items are removed, roughly turn over the soil. This can eliminate microorganisms through the decomposition process over winter. No need to smooth the surface of your garden when you’re through; the freeze/thaw cycle of winter can improve your soil’s texture for next year.

Taking these steps now will make next year’s success even easier!

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