NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 3, 2012

Tim's Tips: Rid your gardens, planters of diseased leaves

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — The calendar has rolled around to October. The temperatures are getting cooler and soon it will be time to start putting our gardens to bed for the winter.

I know that some of you are relatively new gardeners. You may not have given much thought to the need to clean up your gardens before winter sets in. However, cleaning up is an important part of gardening. Cleaning up your planters is necessary too. Let me tell you why.

It was the summer of fungus diseases for many gardeners. The first few days of June brought rain and fog. This constant exposure to moisture on the leaves of plants created an ideal environment for plant diseases. Fungus diseases plagued gardeners all through the summer. The diseased leaves developed spores, which are the “eggs” of fungus diseases.

The spores will spend the winter on plant debris that is left in the garden or in your planters. In the spring, when new growth begins in your gardens, or shortly after you plant, spring rain or the watering, will cause the spores to splash up onto the new growth. The spores start to grow, and you are off and running with new fungus diseases.

Leaving any plant debris in the garden or failing to clean out those containers is an open invitation for fungus diseases to take root over the winter.

If you have a compost pile that will heat up enough to destroy the spores, you can put diseased plant material in it. However, since many compost piles do not get hot enough, it is always best to get rid of the diseased materials. I know that this goes against much of the solid waste disposal requirements, but when it comes to diseased plants, I think it is the best option.

If you have enough land that is away from your gardens, you could always dig a hole and bury the diseased material. Either way, don’t let it sit in your gardens or remain in your planters.

Some of you with large vegetable gardens may wish to rototill this fall. It might be tempting to till in all the dead plants. After all, this is similar to burying the plants. This is not a good idea. The spores will live in the soil and they will be there in the spring to infect your plants. Get rid of them.

Plant debris can become a home for wintering insects. In the fall, many of those insects will lay eggs, and come the spring, the eggs hatch and a new generation of insects will have arrived in your garden. This fall when you are raking up the leaves to take to the leaf dump, add your plant debris and send those diseases on their way.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.Harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.