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Spring Cleaning for Your Garden

St. Paul, Minn. (March 30, 2005)—With winter winding down, now is the perfect time to start planning your summer garden. The American Phytopathological Society (APS), an organization of professional “plant doctors,” offers the following suggestions to help get your garden ready for spring planting.

  • Mulch your soil (let it warm up first in northern gardens). Mulching will conserve moisture and reduce the time needed for weeding and watering. Be careful to keep the mulch away from contact with the stems or trunks of plants, in order to avoid encouraging fungal infections.
  • Remove old, dead leaves from the garden in order to keep early blooming flowers, such as irises and tulips, healthy. Plant pathogens will often over-winter in old leaves. Removal and destruction of dead leaves will help reduce the risk of re-infection.
  • 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.

  • Stakes, cages and trellises from a previous season that will be reused should be cleaned before re-use.

  • Remember to clean tools after use. Soil on garden tools can harbor some plant pathogens.
  • Purchase only high quality, healthy plants. Annual flowers and vegetable transplants should show good color and have no dead or yellowed areas. Avoid cell packs with stunted, sickly or missing plants. Check the roots: they should be white and vigorous looking. If using seeds, take care that they are fresh or have been stored properly. Bulbs, tubers, roots and corms should be firm and have no obvious mechanical damage or mold.

  • The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a nonprofit, professional scientific organization. The research of the organization’s 5,000 worldwide members advances the understanding of the science of plant pathology and its application to plant health.