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Garden Clean Up

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

As our weather continues to be cooler at night and only getting into the 70's most of the time, our perennials in the flower gardens and vegetables that like warmer weather are really slowing down. If you have planted tropical plants out in the yard or in planters, they are really showing the effects of cooler nights.

Rather than being a weekend gardener warrior and trying to get it all done at one time, consider taking care of the plants as they decline naturally, spreading out the work over a number of weekday evenings besides the weekends. Putting in a couple of hours or less during the week can really move things along. Tackle those plants that have really quit growing in the flower beds or those vegetables that are no longer producing. Examples could be the iris, bee balm, snap beans, beets that have just gotten too old or insect damaged and you know you are not going to use them. Some of the early varieties of tomatoes have also quit producing. Summer bulbs like calla lilies and caladiums have started to go down too. Pick a flower group or just one of your beds so that in a couple of hours you will have completed that project. You are more likely to start and finish a garden project if you can visualize the end.

In any yard, there will be garden debris that can and should be composted and plants that have been attacked by diseases that should not be composted, but rather disposed of. Most of the composting we do is what is called "cold composting" and that will not kill seeds that are added to the composting process. An observation of gardening that I believe all of us have seen is that while our flowers and vegetables did not perform to our liking, the weed population took advantage of the summer now our beds are green with weeds. As the gardens are cleaned up, do not use the weeds with seed heads for composting. Some of the weeds there are annuals and will not necessarily be troublesome next year. There have been considerable perennial weeds establishing themselves this summer and those will be the ones to be sure you get as much of the root system along with the tops as you clean up the beds. Right now they only have one seasons worth of a root right now and that should help. Plants that have been eaten by insects typically do pose a problem and should be composted. As you add plant parts to the compost pile, remember to throw in two or three shovels of soil to mix with the green parts to be sure that the composting process gets off to a good start. This is easier to do when you break out the work into smaller pieces.

Part of your garden clean up could be taking soil samples for next year. Consider that with the poor growth, there may be a lot of nutrition that did not get used and your applications of fertilizers and organic matter this year will still be there to provide the garden plants with nutrition in 2013.

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