(‘Cause maybe you didn’t do it in the Fall!)
Fall cleanup is one of the best procedures for preventing harmful insect and disease invasion in our gardens. Last year the mild Fall lulled us into a lazy appreciation of the herbaceous perennials, annuals, vegetables and ornamental trees still appearing to be in great condition. Sycamores had green leaves well into November! We were in denial of the impending winter season.
Then...WHAM! Winter in Wisconsin arrived. We slipped into hibernation mode while our garden debris decayed.
Now we’re in what I call “Mud Season.” Mud season is the best time to view your garden in its most unflattering condition. Once lovely green shoots begin to show, we enjoy every little speck of growth. Don’t wait that long to get out there with rake and shears in hand! In Spring, as Wisconsin weather is so changeable, scheduling a crucial “Sanitation Day” is difficult. Truthfully, browsing catalogues and imagining perfection is more pleasant than editing the depressing brown leftovers of seasons past.
Nevertheless, be prepared to take action when weather permits! A garden walkabout is called for.
Prioritizing is necessary. Take a walk; bring a camera or notebook to keep track of items needing attention. No one’s garden is perfection all the time. Where did you have insect or disease problems last year?
PREVENTING HARMFUL INSECTS AND DISEASEs
Many diseases are lurking in fallen fruits, twigs and leaves. Destructive insects love to overwinter in close proximity to their host plants. Cozy communities of fungus, scale, blights and slugs are lying in wait for your lovely garden to awaken and provide their favorite nourishment and environment.
Roses, Hollyhocks, rhubarb, asparagus, irises and daylilies are a few common local plants that need particular care for sanitation. Crab Apples, hawthorns and mums also benefit greatly from a clean sweep approach.
So, it’s a mess out there. Gooey piles of muddy, squishy leftover rhubarb stems and leaves, blackened rose leaves, desiccated haws, shriveled crab apples and streaky daylily leaves must be gathered and discarded as soon as possible. When a dry day presents the opportunity, with no snow on the ground, you must be, plan in hand, ready to act!
Are there areas where volunteers such as globe thistles, cup plants or other vigorous natives are crowding and restricting air movement? Rogueing out overcrowded plants will help eliminate fungus issues. Air circulation benefits plants grown in temperate, humid conditions.
BE GENTLE TO WET SOIL
Do keep in mind that working in wet soil is harmful to soil structure and tilth. Avoid squishy areas that will compact underfoot-- roots require oxygen as well as moisture so guarding pore space is critical. Nobody said it was easy. Gardening is not for the faint of heart or wishy-washy.
Garden sanitation and editing are two overlooked and underutilized tasks that can transform your garden by preventing problems later in the season. If you unearth something you have questions about, give us a call!
Don't want to do the dirty work this year? We'll take the job off your hands.