By Amanda Sears
With frost fast approaching, it is time to start thinking about cleaning up your vegetable, flower and fruit gardens.
Doing this can reduce the risk of some common problems next year by getting rid of leftover plant debris that can harbor several disease-causing fungi and bacteria.
Proper garden sanitation can combat such diseases as early blight, mildews, gray mold fungus and various root rot and wilt problems.
This is especially important if you had disease in your gardens this past year.
To combat diseases, remove all plants, except winter vegetables or cover crops, from the garden.
It is especially important to completely clean out and destroy all diseased plants in vegetable gardens and fruit plantings.
Carefully dig up and remove decomposing roots to keep them from releasing disease-causing microbes into the soil.
Also, remove spent blooms and foliage from flower gardens and mummied fruits on or around trees and grapevines.
Garden debris is a wonderful addition to a compost pile. A good pile will heat up and completely decompose the remains in a few years. This process will destroy most disease-causing organisms.
If heat development is not possible in your composting process, dispose of plants infected with root knot nematode or Fusarium and Verticillium wilt diseases. Be sure to put these infected plants where they cannot be recycled into the garden.
Gardeners who decide not to remove old plants should till gardening areas to break dead materials into smaller pieces and then work them into the soil.
Plant debris decomposes more rapidly when buried than when left on the soil surface. This reduces populations of disease-causing organisms that could cause problems next year.