Fall is time to prep gardens for spring

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I would never have imagined earlier in the summer that by early November we still have not had a hard frost.

Just this past week, as I was cleaning up in my own garden, I had to deal with mosquitoes, stink bugs and many other insects. In most years, we have already had temperatures that are cold enough to kill out these insects or force them inside to a sheltered area.

As I was in my tomato garden, I also noticed that there is still an abundance of living plants. In fact, I was able to eat a few cherry tomatoes as I was cleaning up in the garden. Since I haven’t applied any disease management practices or fungicides in weeks, there is also an abundance of tomato diseases on the remaining vegetation.

In most years, I will be managing my garden plants for disease control until the plants are removed or killed by frost. Since I have quit for this season and I have had little time to clean up the garden, it brings concerns for next year. Many Clark County gardeners are probably in a similar circumstance. For all of us, it is more important than ever to make sure to follow good garden sanitation practices this fall in order to avoid potential issues next year.

The first essential part of fall garden sanitation practices is to make sure garden plants are mowed off, tilled in or otherwise disposed of. Even the non-living plant material has the potential to harbor disease, and protect insects from the elements. Dealing with this year’s plant material is a good way to minimize potential issues with garden diseases and insects issues next year.

It is also important to clean and sanitize materials, equipment and tools that have been used in the garden this season. It is a good idea to thoroughly clean trellising stakes, tomato cages and other tools prior to storing them. Applying a 10 percent bleach sanitation solution to equipment and materials after cleaning is also a good practice to follow.

Garden cover crops also have some benefit. This year, consider taking advantage of the above average temperatures to put in some type of cover crop such as cereal rye. Rye has some allopathic characteristics that also assist in preventing winter annual and early spring weeds from establishing in the garden.

A cover crop also protects exposed soil from the elements throughout the winter. In the spring, however, it is important to wait at least two weeks after plowing or tilling before planting anything in the garden if rye is used as a cover crop to make sure that it is tilled out and will not compete with garden plants early in the gardening season.

Though the gardening season has ended, it is important to plan for next year. Following recommended garden sanitation practices and using cover crops in the garden can have tremendous benefits. If you would like to know more about this topic, or have other questions as you start planning for next year, call me at the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service at 744-4682.

David Davis is the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources. Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.