Jo Russavage, Community Forestry Educator

Fall leaves in a perennial bed, at first snow, and in the spring.

To clean up or not to clean up?  That is the question.

So many opinions, so many options.  So many things to put on the TO DO List… or not.  What’s a thoughtful gardener or land steward to do?

There are a few MUST DOs, and then it comes down to what you’re trying to achieve with your landscape and the resources you have to bring to bear.

DO remove potential sources of disease for next season. Remove plant parts with powdery mildew, black spot, early blight, etc.  Don’t compost them, as that can potentially spread disease problems further.  Good sanitation now means a healthier garden next season.  Click here to see 10 easy steps to prevent common garden diseases. Click here to see 10 easy steps to prevent common garden diseases.

DO tend to weed / invasive issues.  Remember the old adage, “One year seed, seven years weed.” Fall is a good time to manage things like bittersweet, bindweed, curly dock, garlic mustard and more.  Just removing seed heads so they can’t make more plants saves weeding time next season.  Here is some information on invasive species.

DO look at your fall ‘cleanup’ with an eye to pest control.  Whether you have squash bugs, voles, deer or any number of other garden pests, care taken now will mean fewer problems next season.  What is comes down to is eliminating habitat for the pests where you find them/where they hide, and mindfully eliminating as much of the population that you currently have as you can.  There are plenty of on-line resources to help guide you.  Click here for UNH Integrated Pest Management   and National Sustainable Agriculture Info Services for some tips.  I also love Margaret Roach’s A Way To Garden website for current topics and creative problem solving.

DO look at your cleanup with a view to supporting your own ecosystem. What can you do to assist the birds, pollinators, frogs,  and other creatures that share your landscape?  Can you leave vegetation for wildlife…can you leave the leaves?  

Do think of your human neighbors.   If what you want to do is a bit outside the ‘norm’ or your neighborhood, perhaps some informative signage can help start a conversation and a new trend.