Fall Garden Tasks to Keep Out Garden Diseases

Clean your garden tools

Photo Credit: Jim Reed at istockphoto.com

There are some fall garden tasks that are critical to maintaining a healthy garden. Disinfecting equipment is probably one of the most important but least completed fall garden tasks. However, it will probably save many of next year’s plants.

Last week I was speaking to one of my neighbors about her tomatoes. I asked her how many tomatoes she had planted this year. She said, “well I only need three or four, but I always plant eight or nine.” I asked why she planted eight or nine, and she commented that she always lost about half of them to disease. When I asked her if she disinfected her cages and tools, she said she had never thought of doing that.
If you go to a greenhouse, they will probably have stacks of extra trays put in some back corner. The reason is that many customers will return the empty trays to the greenhouse so they can be used again. The problem is that a greenhouse cannot use them. All of the trays have to be disinfected, and it is much cheaper for them to purchase new trays.
During the growing season many plants will contract some disease particular to the plant. Of course, we put cages and trellises around our vine plants like tomatoes, maybe peppers, and maybe even some of our squash, but we often never think that those diseased plants are wrapping around the cages and residue of those diseases remain.

Disinfect Cages, Tools, Trays, and Other Equipment

One of the important fall garden tasks is to disinfect cages, tools, trays, and other equipment. It is a pretty simple process which only takes a few minutes, but which can keep you from buying twice as many plants.
Tomatoes and Peppers are probably the most susceptible.
1) Remove old vines
First, remove old tomato and pepper vines from the garden. Most plants I like to till back into the soil for the organic content, but I don’t do that with tomatoes and peppers. I burn them. They are just too susceptible to desease.
2) Disinfect cages and trellises
Any tomato or pepper cages, trellises, or supporting equipment that will be used should be cleaned and disinfected. I remove old vines that cling to the sides. Often times in the fall I will have a lot of brush or weeds in a pile. If you are in the country where burn permits are available, I will burn those weeds. When I do, if the pile might be hot enough, I might put my metal cages right in the fire and let nature do the work for me. But I always wash and spray my cages with a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. It is as simple as spraying the surfaces of the cages. If you have a lot to do, put the mixture in a big pressure sprayer and the work goes much faster. If you leave these cages out during the winter, the sun will also help disnifect the cages. This is called solarization.
3) Disinfect trays
If you used any potting trays that you will use again next season, now is the perfect time to disinfect all of the pots as well. Rinse out any remaining soil. Use a 5-gallon bucket of disinfectant solution (1:9 bleach to water). Use rubber gloves and just dip each tray into the bucket. That’s all it takes. You’ll be ready to start your plants around February or March. We’ll cover that in another article and video.
4) Wash and disinfect tools
While you are disinefecting, get out your tools. Now is the time to wash the tools. Remove any soil residue. If a tool is heavily rusted, you can rub it through sand to remove much of the rust. Then run the tool through the same disinfecting solution. This is especially important for any tool that comes in direct contact with plants, such as pruners and clippers. Finally, use WD-40 to remove any remaining rust and to protect the surface.
These fall garden tasks are some of the most important to maintaining a healthy garden next year. It only takes a morning or afternoon but can certainly increase your garden yield.
One of the most important fall garden tasks is building organic soil by adding important amendments.

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