Off-season Is Good Cleanup Time

Thomas J. Koske  |  10/4/2004 4:26:10 AM

Distributed January 2004

In January and February, outdoor gardening is at a low to nonexistent rate in most homes. "Why not clean up the yard in preparation for spring gardening?" asks LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.

"The first thing many want to do is mulch all that dead stuff back into the sod," Koske says, but he cautions, "I recommend against that at this time unless you have a new, thin lawn with zero thatch."

He explains that mature or thatchy lawns will build more thatch. The organic matter (OM) will be very slow to decompose now because of the cold soils and moist or wet conditions. The mulch may even encourage spring brown patch disease.

"When soils are warm, they can handle such loads of OM by natural microbial breakdown," Koske says, but notes they won’t be warm until mid to late spring.

"So at this time, rake or use the mower bag to pick up organic material and dump it in the compost pile or mulch around plants," the horticulturist recommends.

The compost pile generates enough heat to keep the interior working most of the time. If nothing else, spread it over the garden to turn under in spring. This will also control many garden area weeds.

"Putting the plant materials in the curbside trash is the least desirable choice," Koske says, explaining, "Our landfills receive an amount of yard waste second only to that of paper. Keeping yard waste out of landfills is a much better use of this dwindling essential resource."

Proper composting reduces the waste in a couple of months, producing a great soil amendment.

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