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Want a Healthy Garden Next Summer? Start Working on It this Fall

St. Paul, Minn. (October 7, 2003)—The plant doctors at The American Phytopathological Society (APS) want to make sure that your garden and landscape are beautiful and productive next summer. To help you, they’ve assembled a checklist of activities that you can begin right now to ensure your neighbors will be envious next season.

  • Rake up fallen leaves and remove plant debris from the garden and landscape. Dried plant debris provides energy for disease organisms to survive the winter.
  • Compost all plant debris properly to ensure plant pathogens are destroyed.
  • Check the roots of annual plants as you remove them and perennials as you divide them. Discard those with galls, rots, or other abnormalities that might indicate a root disease or nematode problem.
  • Check trees and shrubs for damaged or diseased areas and remove as recommended for the situation.
  • Consider pruning trees and shrubs to increase air circulation in the landscape. This reduces the length of time moisture is present. The longer moisture is present the greater the chance of disease.
  • Plan to purchase soaker and sweat hoses for the garden to minimize wetting of the foliage and to conserve water.
  • If fireblight was a problem on apple and related plants, mark the cankered (dead) areas with white latex paint or string so you can find them when it’s time for removal in late winter.
  • In northern areas, keep lawns mowed at the recommended height and avoid excessive rates of nitrogen to minimize snow mold problems.
  • In southern areas, treat for oak leaf blister and peach leaf curl.
  • Make a list of the plants with which you had problems. Use this list to choose plants with disease resistance when you look through the garden catalogs this winter.
  • Redesign, on paper, your vegetable and flower gardens to allow for good air circulation and plan to purchase stakes and cages to keep tall vining plants off the ground. 
  • Read a book on the proper care of different plants including fertilizing and pruning. Properly cared for plants are the healthiest and most disease resistant.
  • Take a gardening class.
  • Add some compost to the garden to increase organic material in the soil and bolster natural disease suppression.
  • Go bulb shopping but purchase only high quality, healthy bulbs.

A little work now and this winter will yield big next year. Check with your state land grant university to find plant doctors in your area. The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a nonprofit, professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant disease with 5,000 members worldwide.