The weather is cooling down and the last of your veggies have been harvested. Find out what you should do to clean up your vegetable garden this fall and get it ready for the dormant winter months.
Keeping a vegetable garden neat and tidy isn’t just for looks — it keeps the garden from attracting unwanted pests and spreading diseases. It might be tempting to let spent vegetable plants remain in the garden bed to naturally decompost over winter, but taking just a few basic steps will save you some potential headaches next spring.
When to clean up
If the last of your plants have been harvested and are ready to cut back now, go ahead and remove them as soon as they stop producing. Otherwise you can wait until the first frost when the annual plants all die back naturally to remove the old plants.
Remove dead plants
Old plants that were healthy can be put in a compost pile to be used next spring. However, if a plant showed any signs of disease or unwanted insect infestation, toss it in the trash bin to be collected. Diseased plants placed in a compost pile can potentially spread and cause issues down the road when you’re ready to put the compost to use.
Store support structures
Remove any support structures like tomato cages, trellises, and stakes from the garden. Clean off tools by dusting off dirt prior to storing. It’s ideal to wash these with a bleach solution to disinfect them and keep diseases from spreading. Dry thoroughly before storing for winter.
Apply compost or ground cover
After the bed has been cleared out, restore soil nutrients by placing a layer of compost and mulch in the garden bed to slowly decompost over winter. Consider planting a winter crop like rye or oats to act as ground cover.
Doing just a few garden cleanup chores in preparation for winter will keep your space in good shape for planting next spring.