Otherwise, I am completely on board with the suggestions in this post! Thank you Jessica for educating me with so many good reasons to wait until spring to tidy. In particular I have some overgrown Forsythia bushes – moved in last October, and pruned just a bit this year, but planning a big clean-up at the end of winter. Wondering if it is best to wait until then for that?
Pop-up underground systems that spray water are usually used as lawn irrigation systems or to broadcast water over a large area. They can be quite wasteful, using a large amount of water and allowing up to 50% of it to be evaporated on hot, windy days before it even reaches its destination. Another disadvantage is that by broadcasting the water from overhead, fungal diseases that thrive on wet foliage can be spread easily. One advantage, however, is that the amount of water and the area it is sprayed on can be adjusted and tailored to the size and shape of your lawn. Additionally, they are generally less expensive than other options.
Brian Hudelson: Sometimes with the leaf material, it’s a little easier to dispose of than if you’ve got, you know, branches or that stuff- a little woodier sort of material. So, I’d handle that a little bit different in terms of the disposal, but mainly cutting back if its branches, herbaceous plants. So, if you can cut those back close to the ground, that often times is really great, but again, making sure you get as much of that material out of the garden as you possibly can.
Avoid working in your garden or beds unless the soil is dry. You don’t want to compact the soil by walking on it, or form hard clods by trying to dig or till too soon. Test your soil’s readiness by scooping up a handful and squeezing it into a ball. Drop the ball from about waist-high. If it shatters, it’s probably dry enough to work. If the ball stays intact, move on to some other garden chores for now.
Good article! I’ve heard about preserving cover for native animals but have never heard much about preserving cover and habitat for beneficial insects. One question that came to mind was, if we preserve habitat for beneficial insects, might we also be helping along some of the pests as well? I’d still lean to preserving habitat regardless since the predator bugs would probably mitigate any pest presence
Clean and store your garden tools. All hand tools should be washed, disinfected in a solution of water and bleach, rinses, dried and stored properly. Gasoline-powered tools should be stored and cleaned according to the manufacturers’ directions. Now’s the time to bring lawn mower and other blades in to be sharpened; demand is low, and your tools will be clean, sharp and ready to use in the spring! And don’t forget to hang up those bird feeders now – or make a bird feeder!
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Automatic sprinkler controllers connect to sprinkler or drip systems through a valve system. They are electronic, programmable, and allow for multiple stations. Like timers, unless equipped with rain or moisture sensors, they will continue to run as programmed even through the rain. Installing a wifi-enabled controller allows you remote access to make adjustments needed while you’re away — whether it’s delaying watering due to rain or adding some extra time if a heatwave passes through.
MADISON — Zoey Rugel: Fall garden cleanup. Today, we’re visiting with Brian Hudelson, Extension Plant Disease Specialist and Director of the Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Zoey Rugel. So, Brian, when is a good time to start fall garden clean up and when should you really be done by?

SO here is my dilemma. I love the idea of protecting good pollinators and beneficial insects, naturally, but in the vegetable garden (and I garden in a old, three generation veg garden as you know) we have many non-beneficial insects as well – and most if not all of these are either managed either by insecticide (not an option) or by strategy -meaning- outsmarting them as most if not all either winter-over in garden debris or underground in plant material that is either dormant or decaying. I’m building a list of damaging insects first that are most problematic such as wireworm (that firm, 1 inch orange, segmented worm one often finds in sod or acidic soils that plagues everything from the Maine potato growers to home perennial borders with Phlox paniculata, Asters and dahlia tubers. The worms live up to three or four years before pupating but winter over in roots of weeds and garden plants that are annuals particularly brassicas. So no keeping kale over through the winter for me. The only cure according to University of Wisconson and Rutgers is to clean the garden as best as you can every fall as even insecticides work well. This same topic keeps coming up in my talks as well particualrly with cabbage root fly maggot, that the UMASS studies show now winter over as eggs or adults at the base of all brassica crops (even arugula) in late autumn in debris or soil, and emerge in their first flight around May 5th here in New England. Their recommendation is first crop rotation every 5 years (not practical for home growers with raised beds) and cleaning the garden in the fall to remove old plant material where adults and eggs winter over. This is such a destructive insect – and one with at least 7 flights throughout the summer, its this first flight that does the most damage so removing all brassicas that are dead in fall has always been my best practice. Then, there are plenty of ‘bad’lepidoptera that winter over in ornamentals (iris borer and others that lay eggs in October with bearded Iris unless the foliage is cut off). so you can see my point, right? So while I totally embrace not cleaning up my wild areas or meadow areas, when it comes to ornamentals and the veg garden – I am still struggling with this trend. I havent even mentioned viruses, fungi AND worms in mulch as we now suffer with the Japanese Jumping Worm that loves mulch and leaf litter. We avoid it by allowing the ground to go fallow for some years keeping it perfectly clean as the eggs winter over and hatch in April. I don’t know – I mean I ‘get it’, the love and ‘feel-good’ actions of not cleaning up to save some beneficial insects, but is anyone telling the whole story out there? (Don’t tell me that it’s going to be me, either! I’m only presenting both sides in my next book !!) – I just would like to see presented the entire story, which sometimes has an answer that no one wants to hear. I thought that I would raise this other side of the issue. It reminds me of one question I got at a lecture recently where a woman asked me how I could stop the caterpillars from eating her pollinator trees!

Have you ever thought about creating your own irrigation system for your garden? imagine a garden that waters itself! If you have a relatively large garden, then you know how long it takes to get water to all of those plants. Here in the South, we often have to hand water our gardens, particularly during the hotter summer months when rain just doesn’t want to fall. While installing your own irrigation system may seem like a costly project, it can be really cheap. In fact, I have found 16 cheap and easy DIY irrigation systems that will take the difficulty out of keeping your garden watered.

Brian Hudelson: From a disease standpoint, and that’s what I always concentrate on, is that old plant material can be a place where disease-causing organisms can survive the winter and they won’t be killed off by our Wisconsin winters. So, they’ll hangout there over the winter time and then when we get warmer, wetter weather in the spring, then those pathogens will be active and they can re–infect your plants in the spring.
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As everything else in the landscape gets tidy, it’s hard to resist shaping and pruning hedges, topiaries and other plants. This isn’t a good idea, as it encourages the formation of new growth that is more sensitive to cooler temperatures. Wait until they are dormant or early spring for most evergreen and broad leaf evergreen plants. Do not cut spring flowering plants until after they have bloomed. Cleaning up garden plants with dead or broken plant material is done at any time of the year.
Winter garden preparations and cleaning up the garden in the fall is one of the most important tasks for the organic gardener, yet many people neglect taking the proper steps to prevent frost damage, damaged plants, and insect infestations. Use the following 10-step checklist to encourage healthy plants and keep your garden accessories looking great year after year. Although it may seem like just another task to add to your busy life this fall, winter garden preparations are an investment. Invest the time, save money and headaches later!
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Garden Design has been providing both residential and commercial landscape and outdoor living services since 1993.  Services for Garden Design in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Houston include, but are not limited to, landscape and outdoor living design, landscape installation, irrigation and sprinkler systems, outdoor construction including outdoor kitchens, landscape and outdoor lighting and water features.  
A good drip irrigation system is going to automatically provide water to plants when it should. This one is pretty easy to build and you have a few options regarding materials. You can also learn more about how much water to give your plants and the best times to set your timer for the water to be delivered. And, since you have different material options, this one may not cost you anything if you have the right supplies on hand.
Application methods and rate will be different for water that is going to stay put on a flat surface and soak in or if it’s going to run down a slope. Figuring out the correct watering schedule and amounts for flat ground can be difficult enough with differences in water needs, soil types or exposure; but watering on slopes adds another layer of complexity. Considerations need to be made to compensate for gravity, trajectory angles and pressure differences due to elevation changes. Check valves should also be installed on lower levels to keep residual water from leaking out.
Automatic sprinkler controllers connect to sprinkler or drip systems through a valve system. They are electronic, programmable, and allow for multiple stations. Like timers, unless equipped with rain or moisture sensors, they will continue to run as programmed even through the rain. Installing a wifi-enabled controller allows you remote access to make adjustments needed while you’re away — whether it’s delaying watering due to rain or adding some extra time if a heatwave passes through.
Pests pose another challenge that can best be addressed by taking preventive measures. Gardens often need to be protected from rabbits. In regions plagued by deer, deer fencing is one option, but it's smarter simply to use deer-resistant plants (unless restricting your plant selection in this way offends your sense of gardening freedom). An even greater number of gardeners are well advised to look into growing:
Next on the spring yard clean up checklist, rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage (which can smother plants and foster disease), pull up spent annuals, and toss in a wheelbarrow with other organic yard waste. Once the threat of frost has passed, Roger also removes existing mulch to set the stage for a new layer once spring planting is done. Push heaved plants back into flower beds and borders, tamping them down around the base with your foot, or use a shovel to replant them. Now is a good time to spread a pelletized fertilizer tailored to existing plantings on the soil's surface so that spring rains can carry it to the roots. Add a 5-10-10 fertilizer around bulbs as soon as they flower to maximize bloom time and feed next season's growth. Use pins to fasten drip irrigation lines that have come loose and a square-head shovel to give beds a clean edge and keep turf grass from growing into them.

Great information! I am a new native gardener. I was looking all over to find out when and how to do what. I am afraid of stepping on any overwintering baby turtles or hibernating frogs both of which appear in my garden and in the grass in the spring. Then when I read about the bees in the ground and the bugs in the stems that I left standing in the fall I was afraid to cut anything in the spring. Last year I waited too long and then had a lot of dead stuff mixed in with the new growth in my sedges and grasses. So this year I will wait until we have steady 50 degree weather and hope I keep everybody safe. Thanks!