Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
September, 2000
Regional Report

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It's not an English spade, but my inspiring blue tarp is an indispensable garden tool for fall cleanup.

Fall Garden Cleanup

I'm the first to admit that I prefer puttering in the garden to undertaking a full-scale bed cleanup and renovation, but if it must be done, autumn is the time to do it. And if I'm going to dig in, I might as well face the job with determination and be outfitted with the proper tools.

My Blue Tarp

While some gardeners have favorite shovels and trowels, high on my list of garden helpers is a 5x8-foot blue plastic tarp. I suppose it could be any color, but bright blue against turfgrass green makes a pretty bold statement and indicates my degree of ambition. The worst part about garden renovation projects is cleaning up after them, and that's what's nice about my tarp. I can pile debris on it with abandon, tossing weeds and prunings all over it, without worrying about a mess that will have to be cleaned up when the grooming is done. When I'm finished, everything remains on the tarp for a ride to the compost heap. Dragging the whole mess at once sure beats bending over and picking up an armload at a time.

My Other Tools

About the only other garden tools I tote around this time of year are a roll of twine, a spade, a hand trowel, and a recently sharpened pair of pruners. Outfitted this way, I can deadhead, cut back branches, move and divide plants, tie canes and stems to stakes, pull weeds, and even skewer an occasional slug.

Debris Decisions

Fall cleanup also includes removing spent annuals, fallen leaves, and pesky weeds to eliminate insect hiding places and slow the spread of disease. If plant parts are visibly infected with disease or insects, don't toss them into the compost heap - bury them instead - unless, of course, you plan on a very hot compost pile. A little work now will result in a healthier garden next season.

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