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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, November 04, 2018 1:00 am

Yard cleanup not always necessary

LEE REICH | Associated Press

Dead leaves on the ground, dead stems on trees and shrubs, dead plants where flowers and vegetables once strutted their stuff – how forlorn the yard can look this time of year. The urge is to tidy things up.

Garden cleanup has its virtues but can do more harm than good if taken to excess.

Autumn leaves have their place. For instance, many gardeners like to clear dead leaves out from beneath shrubbery. In fact, trees and shrubs would love to have their roots cozied in beneath a thick blanket of leaves. Such a blanket keeps roots warmer in winter, cooler in summer, and moister year-round. All of which spurs roots to grow more, and more root growth means more robust plants.

A final pass with the mower might be all that is needed to grind leaves fine enough to filter down through the grassy blades to the soil. A mulching mower, or a conventional mower fit with a mulching blade, does this job well.

The benefits of working the leaves into the lawn are similar to those of raking leaves beneath shrubbery. Next summer, your lawn will look nicer and be better able to survive periodic droughts.

What about pruning? Generally, don't prune for beauty at this time of year. If you can't resist the urge to grab your pruning shears and beautify some trees and shrubs, work with plants that are very cold-hardy and subject to few diseases.

Some cleanup is in order. The place to put most of your tidying energy is into your vegetable and flower beds. Old, infected plant parts left lying around can help spread diseases.

For specific concerns it pays to thoroughly clean up this time of year. In this case, ripping dead, old plants, stems or leaves out of the garden and then carting them away to the compost pile also carries away some potential pest problems.