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Now is a good time to clean up the garden. Garden clean-up done well is good exercise, aids in sanitation of the area, and is an excellent and effective plant disease control practice. Many disease causing fungi and bacteria can survive the winter on diseased roots, stems, leaves, or fruits and cause problems next year.
Remove all the plants (except cover crops or winter vegetables) from the vegetable garden. Dig up the roots and take them away as well. Roots left to decompose in the soil can release microbes next year.
What is to be done with all this plant debris? If you have a good compost pile that heats up and completely decomposes plant remains over a period of a few years, most of the disease causing pathogens will also be destroyed.
If heat development in the composting process is not possible, infected plant parts should be removed from the garden and placed where they would not be recycled back into the garden.
If plants are not being removed, then till the garden in the fall to break the dead plant material into smaller pieces and to turn them under. Buried plant debris decomposes faster than plant debris left on the surface. This will reduce the population of disease causing microbes left in the garden to attack next year’s crop. If the garden is tilled, it is a good idea to sow a winter cover crop.
Also, take a soil sample and bring it to us for analysis for a $5 fee. We can then recommend what fertilizer is needed for next year. If the pH is low, you can apply lime this fall and raise the pH before next spring.
For more information on gardening, call or drop by our Office and ask for free Extension publication ID-128, Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky.