In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
October, 2009
Regional Report

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Practicing Good Garden Sanitation

If you've harvested the last of your vegetables, it's time to get the garden ready for winter. It might be tempting to just walk away and deal with the garden next spring, but a little work now will result in a healthier, more productive garden next year.

Cucumber vines, squash vines, and the dried remains of tomato and bean plants can harbor diseases. If you allow this disease-carrying residue to remain in the soil, there is a good chance the organisms will live through the winter and infect your new plants in the spring.

Remove Debris
I gather plant material that is obviously infected and discard it, then dig under the remaining plant debris. As the crop residue breaks down it will help improve the soil.

Turning under leaves, stalks, and vegetable plant debris is helpful in other ways, too. The rough, uneven surface of a plowed garden is more prone to alternate freezing and thawing during the winter months, which helps break down heavy soil clumps.

Have Your Soil Tested
Most soils in our region are naturally acidic. Soil tests will indicate current pH and nutrient levels, and include recommendations for liming and fertilizing to help maintain good plant growth. Lime applied and incorporated into the soil during the fall months prepares the soil for next season's vegetables.

Make Notes
A final step in fall garden clean up is to evaluate the garden and make notes to help you plan for next year's garden. I include information on the crops and varieties I grew this year to help me decide about seed and transplant purchases next season. I make a note of the crops and varieties that did well and those that performed poorly. If there was a problem with a particular plant disease, I note that too, so I can look for disease-resistant varieties. Even if this year's garden was the best ever and I don't want to change a thing, it's still a good idea to jot down what worked well and what was a disappointment.

I think vegetable gardening is such a rewarding hobby that it's hard for me to face the end of the season. But it's time to draw this activity to a proper conclusion by paying attention to these all-important fall chores. Once done, I can look forward to a healthy, well-prepared garden plot, ready for early spring planting.


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