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University of California
UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA
Fruit mummy with brown rot sporulation, by William W. Coates, UC
Keeping the garden clean can help keep it healthy. Remove spent blossoms, fruit, and other plant parts as your plants finish producing. Dead and decaying plant parts can attract pests and give them safe places to breed. Insect pests damage plants directly by eating material or sucking out juices and nutrients, and they also spread diseases between plants as they move around. Weeds compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients and even sunlight, so remove them promptly. Older leaves of some plants, like squash vines, may naturally turn yellow and die. Removing them early allows the plants’ energy to go into the actively growing parts. Pick up fallen fruit that can attract rodents and can also return disease pathogens to the soil and plant. It’s particularly important to remove dried-up fruit “mummies” so that the fungal spores don’t spread. Prune dying tree branches before they can fall and do damage. Some flowering plants will produce more flowers if you remove spent blooms, a process called deadheading. You can leave healthy fallen leaves in place to form a mulch and decompose naturally, or you can rake them up and add them to the compost pile with other disease-free plant material. Do not compost diseased material.
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