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University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
Natural leaf decomposition
It’s an excellent idea to keep the garden clean at all times and to remove dead or dying plants or diseased material. Yet there may be bigger seasonal cleanups when taking out plants that have finished producing or that need to be removed to make room for new plants. Trim woody or overgrown perennials. Remove plant debris that allows insects and diseases to overwinter and then reproduce. Always pick up fruit promptly from the ground to not invite critters or allow diseases to proliferate. It's best to leave fallen leaves in place unless they are diseased. They provide a mulch layer while slowly breaking down and returning nutrients to the soil and then back to the plants. Particularly during a drought, having the soil covered is important for moisture retention. If the leaves are diseased, they need to be removed and put out with the yard waste. Monitor the health of your plants while you're out cleaning up.
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