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What you can do in the garden during the fall

During the summer, I can spend hours just looking at a garden alive with butterflies, birds, bees, and blossoms. But, up here, it seems like the time to enjoy the blossoms is so short compared to the time the garden is empty of plants and pollinators.

Despite the lack of actively growing plants, there is still plenty to do in the garden. If you have a vegetable garden, now is the time to make sure all the garden debris is raked up and the garden is put to bed.

It's important to clean up all the dead foliage every fall, because garden pests and plant diseases can overwinter in garden debris and cause problems in the garden next year.

If you had early blight or powdery mildew this season, be sure to be thorough with fall garden clean-up. These steps also help to prevent viruses, thrips, and problem beetles (such as potato beetles and flea beetles):

Start by pulling up all the plants and weeds in the garden. Get the roots and all. Then shred and compost any healthy plant material. The weeds and diseased plants should be bagged and disposed of in the garbage. Rake up all the remaining plant debris.

Next, rake up any fallen tree leaves from your lawn area or if you don't have leaves in your lawn, snag some of your neighbor's leaves. Run the leaves over with a mulching lawnmower and add them to the garden bed. In the spring, turn or till the remaining leaves into the soil to improve your gardens fertility.

It really is amazing how a little extra time spend cleaning up the garden now, will make for a healthier garden next year!

Anne Lenox Barlow is the horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; and Franklin County, 483-7403. E-mail your questions to askMG@cornell.edu.

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