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October 3, 2012

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

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.

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