Saturday, November 5, 2016 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Fall Clean-up is Important to Prepare for Spring

Fall clean-up will Benefit spring planting

Brian Jervis: Master Gardener

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Q: Should I cut the tops off of my lilies in fall or wait until spring? T.C., Owasso

A: Both times are acceptable, and what you do depends basically on the appearance you are striving for in your landscape. This brings up the topic of fall activities in the garden that may help increase the performance of ornamentals and vegetables the following spring.
The option of removing leaves and stems of perennials applies to many plants other than lilies. Generally, it is best to leave perennial leaves attached to the plant as long as any parts are green. When green is present, the plant is still making energy and storing it in roots or bulbs.
One of the exceptions to removal of all plant parts from perennial ornamentals is when one wishes to save seeds for birds. Plants like purple coneflower have heads loaded with seeds that the birds can eat over the winter.
Lilies have long leaves that if left in place after browning and falling over, serve as a type of mulch to conserve water and moderate ground temperature. Also, if left in place, they may be pulled by hand or raked, as they are easily detached in spring. If for appearance sake you wish to remove the leaves in fall, it is best to mulch the lilies for the winter after the first frost.
Recommendations for fall cleanup in the vegetable garden is the same for ornamentals.
The tops of perennials such as asparagus should be handled like lilies. Annuals such as tomatoes and members of the squash family will develop disease and insect problems in the course of the growing season.
Many of these plants will harbor disease-causing microbes and also various overwintering insects and eggs in the material left behind after harvest. If left in place, the disease and insect numbers will build up and increase in severity from year to year.
So for vegetable gardens, it is best to remove all of the debris from last summer’s crop. After removing the debris, it helps to till the garden to expose any undesirable microbes or insects to the effects of winter.
Also, the fall is a good time to till organic material into your garden. Any composted organic supplements will benefit the soil when added in spring or fall. Even though some of the organics, such as leaves, might not be fully composted when added in fall, they should decompose over winter and be good to go in the spring. Some gardeners also will plant winter-hardy cover crops such as Austrian winter peas and winter rye. These cover crops protect the garden soil, and when tilled into the spring garden, they add desirable nutrients and organics to the garden.
Other suggestions for your garden beds is to obtain a soil test. This will give you sound advice about what fertilizers and amendments to add to the garden in fall and in springtime.

Garden tips
§  Leftover garden seeds can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer until next planting season. Discard seeds more than 3 years old.
§  The garden centers still have large selections of spring-blooming bulbs for sale. If you intend to plant bulbs, buy them and plant soon. Tulips can still be successfully planted through November.
§  Be sure to keep leaves off newly seeded fescue. The sprouts will die without sun and air exposure.


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