The Benefits of Fall Cleanup

Would you leave toys, tools and books on the stairs in your house? Likely not, because these things might create a hazard. Then why would you not pick up fallen fruit and diseased leaves or remove broken branches still hanging on the tree? These things are a hazard to your plant’s health. Fall is an excellent time to tidy up the yard before a cold, white blanket of snow covers up all the hazards. The idea of cleaning up is not to win the spick and span award in the home garden but to reduce the risk of infecting your plants with these hidden residual pests, and prevent them from appearing next year.

Mother Nature always has a plan for renewal. For every apple that is left on the ground, there is an opportunity for the apple maggot to burrow into the ground for the winter and emerge as a fly the next June or July, to deposit eggs just under the apple skin. The birds and squirrels can help transport some of these dropped apples and help in the expansion of the apple maggot population distribution. When you pick up dropped apples and dispose of them, you help break that cycle.

The cleaner you keep your garden the less likely you will have weeds growing next year and rodents, such as mice, living in your garden under the snow eating weed seeds. The mice also love to eat fruit tree bark for dessert. Damage from mice during the winter on fruit trees can be devastating. It is recommended that you wrap your fruit trees with hard, rigid plastic wraps to prevent damage from rodents. It is as important to take these wraps off in the spring each year so that your bark is less prone to damage from sweating or moisture accumulating under the wraps or physical damage from wraps that do not expand with the increase of the tree bole. Cutting the lawn before snow accumulation can prevent snow mold, and attracts fewer mice.

One of the most common fall clean-up jobs done by the average urbanite is to faithfully rake up the leaves off their lawns. You may put them in plastic bags or plastic recycling bins for the City to take away, or put them in your own composter. Many cities have composting facilities and they allow you to go there and get back some of the “black gold” compost. You can also create great compost yourself as long as you know some of the basics of creating compost. There are a number of excellent websites including this one.  Bylands is world recognized for their large-scale composting program and the compost produced from that program is used both in the field and container programs and it is also sold in your local garden centre.

Mediterranean Landscape by Tel Aviv Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers GARDENIA-Sharly & Tanya Illuz
What about the leaves infected with black spot diseases that have fallen in the rose bed? These dead infected leaves guarantee that the leaf disease will come back even stronger the following year. So make sure you clean out your rose beds.

Widespread pruning is not recommended in the fall since it exposes open wounds to chilling temperatures. However, if there is a broken branch that is hanging on a tree then prune it off. This way the bark does not continue to rip and expose even more surface area for a disease to enter.

Fall clean-up is an essential part of creating a healthy garden. The more effort you put into reducing the hazards during the fall season, the greater the benefit you will see during the following growing season.

Happy Gardening!

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Photo Credit via Houzz & The Garden Smallholder via photopin cc