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Time to Put Gardens to Bed for Winter

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — To prepare for the 2019 growing season, Kelly McGowan, a horticulture field specialist with University of Missouri Extension, says a number of chores need to be done this fall prior to cold weather.

For starters, vegetable garden clean up is important to reduce the incidence of over wintering insects and diseases.

“Residues of diseased plants should be removed from the garden and, if burning is permissible where you live, diseased plants should be destroyed,” said McGowan.

Fall tillage of annual beds and vegetable gardens is also a good idea. Doing this may expose potential insect larvae to birds and other prey. This is also an excellent time to incorporate compost or other forms of organic matter beneficial to your garden.

“Now is also a good time to soil test flower and vegetable gardens. If soil amendments are needed, such as lime or sulfur, you will have time to incorporate and adjust soil pH to a desired level,” said McGowan.

Fall is an excellent time to mulch trees, shrubs and perennials according to McGowan.

“Don’t be too anxious though. Allow the soil temperatures to significantly cool before applying mulch. Applying mulch to perennial plants too early can slow the cooling period of the soil and delay plant dormancy,” said McGowan.

Once soil temperatures have cooled, following several days in the low 20’s, and bark mulches are applied, the soil temperatures should remain consistent during the winter.

“Don’t be in too big of a hurry to cut back perennials either, even though the tops seem dormant. Besides, the vegetative remains of some of the perennials may add character to the landscape and flower beds,” said McGowan.

Ornamental grasses should not be cut back until new growth emerges from the base in the spring.

For answers to this and other gardening questions, call the Master Gardeners of Greene County Hotline or the MU Extension Center in Greene County at 417-874-2963.