Gardening: Preparation for 2019 begins now

Staff photo by Jeremy Behnke Gardeners need to get rid of all plants and the roots in their garden for preparation for next year.

NEW ULM — While many Minnesotans love having a garden in the summer — either vegetable or flower — the reality of such a project is that it’s a short-lived season to for growing.

Now that we’re in the month of September, those who have vegetable gardens are running out of time to pick the produce that they’ve been working on since about May this year because of the late snow in April. This means that you should start planning for the cleanup phase.

Brown County Master Gardeners Dean Wintheiser and Roxy Jelinek offered some tips to help get your garden ready for the winter season and in good shape for next year.

Caring for trees

Caring for your trees is important in the fall and it’s a step that’s often missed by everyone. Most established trees and shrubs don’t get the proper care they need going into the winter season.

Staff photo by Jeremy Behnke Tree leaves from apple trees should be cleaned up every year to prevent apple scab.

Those with ornamental or regular apple trees should clean up all leaves from the fall. Removal of the leaves will greatly reduce the severity of apple scab.

Shrubs and trees should also be well watered going into winter. This is especially important for evergreens since they lose moisture through the needles. Mulching trees prevents moisture loss. Make sure to keep the mulch two inches from the bark.

Jelinek and Wintheiser also said that to prevent thawing and freezing of tree tissue on soft bark trees, you should use white plastic cylinders or reflective wrap. The idea is to provide shading.

During the winter months, it’s important to check whether any snow drifts allow the rabbits to chew on young trees. In the absence of white plastic tubes or reflective wrap you can put a wooden barrier on the south side to provide shading. If you use a wrap, make it a reflective wrap and make sure it is removed in spring.

Also, if you have any raised beds with perennials or fruit bearing plants, it is important to mulch so you can prevent damage from the cold temperatures. Any container with plants you want saved has to be protected from extreme cold temperatures. You can do this by either digging a hole and burying the pot or bringing it inside an unheated garage.

Staff photo by Jeremy Behnke Tomato plants must be dug up and all tomatoes should be cleaned up so diseases aren’t spread through the soil.

Vegetable garden tips

Wintheiser said that once the garden plants have finished producing or the frost has ended the season, it is time to dig up or pull the plants. What you do next can have a big effect on what happens in your garden or landscape next year.

Because pathogens are always a threat, there is a need to think of proper sanitation in the garden and in the landscape. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi can survive the winter in plant stems or plant debris, so it’s important to dig up all roots and debris from this year’s plants.

Some plant pathogens can survive cold temperatures and many years without a host plant to infect and it is not possible to eliminate 100 percent of plant pathogens but proper sanitation can greatly reduce the survival rate one year to the next. All plant debris, especially infected plant debris, need to be removed and destroyed. It can be buried, burned, or composted.

Prevention of diseases and insect infestation now will keep you from a repeat of problems in next year’s garden.

After you have finished cleaning up the debris from your garden, it’s time to aerate the soil. This can be done by simply turning over the soil. Rototilling will also make this job much easier.

Rototilling should destroy larvae and cocoons. Also, deep plowing physically destroys cocoons and larvae by burying them deep beneath the soil.

Once buried, any plant material left will decompose more rapidly. For some pests and pathogens, turning over the soil after removing spent plant materials is recommended as the main line of defense against overpopulation next year.

Tips on lawn repair

Jelinek said that what you do in the fall prepares your lawn for a gorgeous spring. Fall is the best time for serious work on the lawn for next year. You should plan to get your grass seed and fertilizer down by early September to mid-October. Prepare the site by getting rid of weeds and loosening the soil by raking or with a core aerator. Keep new seedlings moist by sprinkling one to three times a day. Established lawns should get about one inch of water a week during the growing season (fall and spring). Make sure to mow your lawn about 3 inches high with a sharp mower blade.

Sanitation is also


Sanitation of your tools, garden stakes and trellises is also a good idea, according to Wintheiser and Jelinek. These can be cleaned with a 10 percent solution of bleach, and bleach is corrosive so be sure to properly rinse with water.

Also, wooden garden stakes have many pores that can harbor plant pathogens that you may not be able to be properly sanitized. As always, remember personal safety when working with bleach and wear eye protection.

While the winter season seems to last forever to some, getting a head start on next year’s garden in the fall season is vital and it could lead to a very productive season next year.