As I look out the window, the wind is blowing, leaves are slowly beginning to change color and float to the ground, the sky is overcast and it is officially fall as per the calendar and it is starting to feel and look like fall. I love fall for many reasons, the changing colors of leaves, cooler weather, pumpkins, apples, and much easier to spend time in the garden.
With all the ups and downs of weather this year my garden is looking rather ragged. I have weeds larger then I would like to admit and some areas that were supposed to be perennial gardens are now weeds and perennials and need some major TLC. I think part of the reason to share this with you is that it happens to all of us, life and or weather gets in the way and weeds are extremely opportunistic and before we know it weeds galore. It happens to the best of gardeners.
The big thing to remember is to take advantage of the cooler weather to clean out the garden of both weeds and diseased and end of season plant material. Sometimes it might be hard to motivate ourselves to get out and clean up the garden, but having a clean slate to start off next year with is easier to get going then having to stop and clean up everything in the spring.
This is especially important for diseased plant material to help minimize inoculum for reinfection next year. Personally I don't like to put diseased plant material into my compost pile because if you can't get the pile to run hot enough to kill of the disease inoculum you can just reinfect plants next year. If you do have a hot compost pile where temperatures in the center of the pile reach 140 degrees, it will usually kill off most inoclum on diseased leaf material, but if you have crowns, bulbs, fibrous root systems – they take longer to break down and should be thrown into the trash.
As for weeds in the garden – it's always best to remove them before they flower/set seed but if you're like me this year that may not have happened. If you do have weeds that have set seed, be careful when removing them to minimize having seeds fall to the garden floor and again sometimes hot compost can help reduce the viability of seeds, but when in doubt discard in the trash so that you minimize more weeds next year.
The morale of the story – take time to clean out your gardens this fall – be it annuals, perennials, vegetables – it will make next spring a much nicer experience when you can start with a clean slate and jump right in.