This is the saddest gardening column of the season.
That’s because it’s time to start cleaning up your vegetable and flower beds for winter.
Tomatoes will keep producing for a few more weeks, thank goodness. But now that the rainy spell is over, there are a few chores you can tackle before cold weather settles in for good.
Start by clearing out tired or diseased plants that aren’t producing anymore.
“Keep the healthy good-looking plants for the next two or three weeks, then it’s time to take those out,’’ said Scott Evans, horticulture program coordinator for the Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties.
Before you do that, grab a pen and paper and record what you planted and how it performed.
“If there was a certain type of tomato or pepper or cucumber that did well for you, jot it down,’’ Evans said.
Then take a few pictures so you remember where everything was planted. Crops need to be rotated each year to reduce disease and insect problems.
Let’s be honest, Evans said. If it’s not recorded somewhere, you won’t remember next year.
“In the spring, when you are faced with 32 cultivars, you are not going to remember what tomato you planted this year,’’ he said.
Around the end of September comes the heavy work. That’s when it’s time to clear all the plants, fallen fruit and leaf debris from your vegetable beds.
Once that is done, don’t leave anything behind in the veggie beds. Evans said extension staff have seen a fair amount of diseases on tomatoes, melons and squash this summer.
Flower beds are much easier. Deadhead and cut back plants that are flopping over to make things look tidy. Get rid of diseased plants.
But don’t go overboard.
“Some of our beneficial insects will either hibernate in hollow stems of plants or lay eggs on them,’’ Evans said. “Birds will use the debris for shelter and to look for food.’’
Take pictures of those beds, too, so you’ll know if something doesn’t come back. That gives you an excuse to buy something new in the spring, Evans said.
I had asked for advice earlier this summer after deciding to grow pumpkins and watermelons for the first time.
Some wonderful readers responded, so I wanted to share how the experiment turned out.
I had no luck with the watermelon, unless a tiny one is buried somewhere under the tomato plants.
But I’m thrilled to report that I have three pumpkins of various sizes.
I can’t wait to put one on the front steps and then turn them all into bars, cakes and other delicious pumpkin desserts. My mouth is already watering at the thought.
Cooler weather provides ideal conditions for planting trees and shrubs, Evans said. The ground is warm and the air is cool, and that allows for a smoother transition into your yard.
Other timely tips from Evans:
- When washing off houseplants to bring them inside, don’t forget to rinse out any saucers. Millipedes and other such critters like to hide in them.
- Continue to mow your lawn at 3 inches. No need to reduce the height.
- As leaves start to fall, keep them on the lawn. It’s a great way to return organic material to the soil and reduce your contribution to the landfill.
- Even though we’ve gotten some much-needed rain, continue to water your landscape plants. Drought-stressed plants are more susceptible to winter injury.
- If you had issues with annual bluegrass, henbit, catchall bedstraw or other cool season annuals, now is the time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to those flowerbeds. This will help prevent them from germinating this fall.
Sprout new ideas
With our home & garden newsletter!