Ask the Master Gardeners
Q: Now that most of the harvesting is done, whatâ€™s a person to do in the garden besides pick up leaves?
A: Put your garden to bed for the winter: clean up. Remove all yard waste such as dead plant matter and leaves. Cut back canes, prune stems and cut down the dead foliage of herbaceous perennials after two or three hard frosts and when leaves begin to brown.
This will ensure that not only is your garden going to look tidy and well kept, but it will minimize fungus and disease problems in the future. Compost as much of the organic matter as possible, except diseased parts, tomato plants and weeds that have gone to seed. Trash those.
It is also a good idea to retain a pile or two of stalks and brush, uncomposted, in a less visible part of your yard, to help beneficial insects overwinter. Some pests may overwinter in there, too, but they will be prey food for next seasonâ€™s beneficial insects.
Nowâ€™s a good time to build up your leaf pile to keep as mulch or as a handy brown-matter addition to kitchen waste in your compost pile.
Let your mower do the picking up and shredding for you. Leave a sufficient amount of small shredded leaf bits on your lawn as a free fertilizer â€” leaves are a good source of phosphorous.
And not least of all, clean your garden tools and oil necessary parts to prevent rust so they will be ready for next spring.
Sona Mason, Pearl River, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland