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Ways to Save Time During Fall Clean-up and a Bonus

Spending time doing things that don’t need to be done can make the fall cleanup take a lot more time than necessary. And fall cleanup’s bonus  of organic material to add to your soil is overlooked by many gardeners.

I read something about cold setting in early (that’s December here in Virginia). If that’s true and the ground freezes I won’t be able to work the garden or borders. I want all of the cleanup done long before spring begins. I have a lot of other things planned that will occupy my time then.

If you don’t already, you may want to follow some of my time-saving tips when doing your cleanup.

  • When taking up tomato vines and beans that were killed by the frost, I left them in the beds or paths. No diseases in my garden to worry about so it’s fine to let them decay in the beds. No bad result seen in over 30 years.
  • Asparagus ferns are not all dead yet, but when they are I’ll cut the old growth and put it along the edges of the garden. Most articles you read advise not keeping it in the garden. But my plants are so healthy.  And although I do have asparagus beetles from time to time, I don’t want to loose all that organic material and I don’t want to haul all that old growth.  So I leave them along the other side of the garden to decay. Have never seen any bad results in over a decade. (Unless you call some volunteer asparagus bad results.)
  • I’ve already pruned the fig bushes and the blueberries.  Some of the branches from the fig bushes I can use to support my peas next spring. Since I don’t have a shredder to recycle the rest, I haul it to the trash. (I know. It seems like a shame. So if you have a shredder by all means use it.)
  • I’m spot weeding as I go along. Weeds that have not seeded stay to decay right where I’ve pulled them up. I do take up the ground ivy or any wire grass since they can root again easily even after being uprooted. (Although – if Bill get’s to it before I do he will put it all in our cold compost pile.  Everything I’ve ever read is against this because the pile does not get hot.  BUT — the results have indicated that  it works and the wire grass does decompose if its piled on top and exposed to the elements enough.) (You might want to do a test.  If it works for you — its a lot more organic material not wasted.)
  • Most late summer and fall perennials like the sedums, helianthus, heliopsis, daisies, and phlox are finished.  I cut off the old growth and leave it to decay right in the bed where it falls. If the old growth is too large, just cut it into pieces. It feeds next years plants.
  • Bill  has raked all the leaves.  If we had lots of time, we’d cut them with the lawn mower, then rake the remains up and put them in the garden.  But since time is short Bill rakes, puts a good sized pile on a sheet of old plastic and pulls it to the garden.  I spread them on the garden beds.

Next we’ll put straw on top of the leaves, old tomato vines, and beans that are on the beds. By spring, everything under the straw will have decayed and I can just pull back the straw and plant. After the garden is complete, we’ll put straw in the flower borders.  It’ll go right over last years growth that I cut down.

Think of all the time I’ve saved by not having remove the old growth and weeds from the garden and compost them. And then think of all the time I’ve saved not having to haul it back as compost to feed my garden and borders.  Nature does all that for me.


Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient and it’s a lot healthier.


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8 comments to Ways to Save Time During Fall Clean-up and a Bonus

  • don

    I went out yesterday to finally cover the strawberry bed with straw. The weather has been unusually warm lately. A few stray weeds in the strawberry bed that came up pretty easily due to all the rain we’ve had. As I pulled the weeds, I remembered this post and left them there, and covered them up.
    Thanks for reminding me its OK.

  • Theresa

    Glad to hear you remembered! Makes life a lot easier doesn’t it? 8)

  • Betty Dotson

    Good Morning Theresa,

    I love reading through your archives! I’ve learned so much.

    I have 2 questions concerning figs.

    1)I’ve never heard of anyone pruning their figs. Why and how do you prune them.

    2) I read in another post that you freeze your figs. How do you process them for freezing.

    My fig tree is LOADED with figs and I’m so excited! I can’t wait to taste fresh figs again!

    Thanks again for taking the time to teach us so much helpful information about gardening.


  • Theresa

    Glad to see that you are enjoying and benefiting from TMG, Betty!
    To answer your questions:
    1. I don’t know how old your fig bush is — but if the plant is allowed to do its own thing they get really big and would produce enough fruit to feed the entire community. Most people allow them to do just that.

    I don’t allow it for several reasons. I don’t want to take time to clean the bush of surplus fruit. If you leave the surplus fruit — even a few — it attracts those big hornets — and I don’t like that. Also — it then becomes — for the season at least — an untended bush with lots of rotting fruit — and I don’t like that. Just a bad policy overall.

    Regarding the pruning. I allow no more than 4 main shoots (trunks I guess you’d call them). The reason for the number 4 is because 4 shoots give me all the fruit I want. You can leave more if you want. If one of the shoots (or truncks) dies or is damaged I cut it off to ground level and allow another one to grow to replace it.

    I keep all main shoots cut to about a foot above my height. That’s just so I can reach the fruit easily.

    I’ve been very pleased with this approach and the size is just right for my yard and for the fruit I need. And – the bush looks beautiful.

    2. We have a Champion juicer which serves as a processor for us. Frozen fruit put through the processor makes the most delicious frozen smoothies — like ice cream almost. Frozen figs with cubes of frozen organic chocolate soy milk and a frozen banana make a most delicious treat. Also good is frozen figs, strawberries and banana.

    Let me know how and what you do.
    You’ll really enjoy the smoothies I think. The grandkids might love them as well and they’re all healthful.

    P.S. I jut re-read your questions and realized I left out part of the answer:
    To free the figs I dip and swish them in a solution of 10% vinegar and water solution. That’s just to clean them. I drain and then bag and freeze. If you want you can peel. I’ll peel only if the skin is really messed up.

    The skins add a bit of texture when you process them as I described above.

  • Betty Dotson

    Thanks Theresa.

    My oldest fig is just as you described. HUGE!

    I can’t reach anywhere near the top. 🙁

    Do you think it would hurt it or kill it if I did a major prune to get it back down to a managable size?

    Even my 6′ 2″ son can’t reach most of the top.

    I was so excited because it was growing so large & healthy. Sadly, I just didn’t think ahead.

  • Theresa

    Choose how many “trunks” you want —- For example: you might want to leave 2 new “trunks” and 4 of the big ones.
    Cut those down by 1/3, Betty.
    See how that does for you next year and make adjustments accordingly.
    Just remember that figs fruit on second year growth so you may possibly loose a few figs next year — but all will level out.

  • Susan

    Hi Theresa,
    I’ve been going through some archived posts and found this one since the summer is almost over. I have some questions about leaving garden waste on the garden and how you manage your paths and beds. We grew corn for the first (and last time) this year. Should we pull the stalks out and lay them in the paths or beds or ? We made wider and heated ghee beds this year but some plants blown by winds lean into the path and it’s not easy sometimes to navigate around them without stepping on a bed. How do you handle your beds and paths to make it easy to harvest your produce?

    When should we plant a cover crop? We live in Knoxville, zone 7b.

    Do you rotate crops or ever leave some parts of your garden fallow to allow it to rest? (Just thinking about the Bible’s instructions.)

    So many questions! I know.

    I love reading your blogs and am praying every night for your full recovery.

    I made a lot of mistakes this year and am wondering how to do better next time. I’m moving slower lately

  • Theresa

    Hey Susan,
    Glad you’re taking advantage of archived posts!

    You can do your corn stalks a couple of ways:
    Cut them at the base and let the roots decay in the ground or
    Pull them up totally
    Then lay it on the beds OR the paths.
    (When I put plant residue on my beds — I like to cover it with straw. Helps things like the corn stalks to break down faster.)
    Sometimes in the fall I pile organic residue in the paths as well if I don’t need to walk there to harvest winter greens. It decays by spring.

    Can you tell me what “heated ghee beds” are? Maybe it’s a typo?

    Regarding: “some plants blown by winds lean into the path and it’s not easy sometimes to navigate around them without stepping on a bed. How do you handle your beds and paths to make it easy to harvest your produce?”

    That sometimes happens to me as well Susan. To make matters worse my paths are really too narrow but I need the growing room so I just deal with it. Some beds are more narrow and some wider than others. (That’s happened over the years.) I try to plant things that get large and are subject to blowing over in the wider beds and in spots that I can still work around.
    Also try to stake things like peppers (very prone to blowing over) so they won’t fall over. Most of the time I’m successful except in something like tropical storm winds coupled with wet ground.

    Sometimes cukes will spread out to the paths and I have to step over them.

    I never walk in my beds. I walk only on the paths.

    I’m in 7b as well.

    Buckwheat is an easy cover crop and you have plenty of time for that to flower before cold weather. (Cut or pull before it seeds)

    Oats can probably be planted anytime now. They’ll winter kill.
    If you plant winter rye you can plant in October. Wide window for that so read this post for more details:
    At the end of that post I give links to a lot of other cover crop post that you might want to check out.
    What you plant will depend on what you want to do in those beds next spring and summer.
    There are many cover crops you could plant, but those 3 come to mind.

    Yes, I rotate crops 99% of the time.
    And the Bible’s instructions about leaving the ground fallow for year is excellent.

    Don’t worry about moving slower. I’m a snail, but I get the job done. Consistency is the main key.

    Feel free to ask as many questions as you like Susan. You can email me too.
    Sure appreciate your continued prayers. I’m so anxious to get back outside!

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