Cleaning up the Garden

Cleaning up the garden, aka “garden sanitation” is not a sexy topic, but an important one in terms of future pest control and productivity.


So, what are the things to clean and to leave alone?  After all, you’re not going to advise us to scrub the dirt with a scouring pad are you?  Good question.  Start by finding the fading vines, stems and other plant parts and distinguish the ones that are pest ridden from the ones that are just at the end of their life cycle.  If no holes in the stem or massive amount of spots on the leaves are present, these materials can be pulled out/raked up and tossed on the compost pile.

black knot john gentry

If, on the other hand, there are strange growths on the stems, the flowers are distorted in growth or the roots are shriveled or rotted, it’s best to take them directly to the trash can.  The whole sanitation concept is that instead of killing or removing microscopic bacteria from a table or countertop, we’re encouraging removing infected plant parts from the land that will produce food and flowers in future years.


After the plant parts are removed, it’s best to leave the garden “open” or uncovered for the winter.  A mass of plants or leaves that have blown in from the neighbor’s lot is a great harborage for overwintering insects and diseases.  As the old cosmetics commercial tag line goes – clean is sexy.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
John Fech on EmailJohn Fech on Twitter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.