From the Garden

How to Avoid Next Year’s Garden Pests

By Megan Cain | Photos By Megan Cain 1

As the gardening season heads into fall here in Madison, vegetable plants like cucumbers, basil, and summer squash are at the end of their production. They’re turning yellow and brown, dying back, or are succumbing to diseases like powdery mildew.

It’s tempting to throw in the towel and declare the gardening season over – but there are plenty of tasks to keep you busy in the coming weeks. And if you’ve had problems with pests and diseases this year, you’ll definitely want to focus on a thorough fall cleanup.

If squash bugs and borers, cabbage worms, or cucumber beetles plagued your plants this season, make sure to you completely dispose of all of the plants in those families before winter. Leaving them in the garden provides habitat for larvae, pupae or unmated adults that like to overwinter in the debris.

Cover exposed soil and dispose of diseased plants before winter sets in.

Do not put diseased or pest ridden plants in your home compost pile! If your town has brush collection, consider putting them on the curb for municipal composting. I have a large dump pile for plants in the back corner of my yard. This is separate from my kitchen waste compost pile. Depending on the plant and level of pest or disease issues, I’ll either take it to the municipal compost site or put it in my dump pile which will not get used on my vegetable garden.

As the fall progresses I’ll eventually clear out most of my garden, except for things I’m over wintering (spinach, scallions). I don’t leave my soil exposed to the harsh winter winds. I’ll cover each bed with a layer of marsh hay to protect it from the long, cold winter in Wisconsin.

Don’t leave any of your spent vegetable plants up in the garden this winter. A good fall clean up now can help fight pests and diseases next spring.

Do you have other tips for things to do in fall that help avoid problems in the next growing season? Share them in the comments!

Megan Cain is setting out to create a legion of gardening addicts who successfully and passionately grow their own food.Through her gardening education business, The Creative Vegetable Gardener, she helps people get more out of their gardens by first mastering the essentials and then indulging in the colorful details that make gardening not just a favorite pastime, but a lifestyle. Jump on her email list at to get her best advice in the season you need it most.

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