Fall Garden Chores - The Controversy! "Dr. Z.'s" Tip of the Week

Fall is here despite the fact we have had both summer and winter weather in the last two weeks!  Fall's arrival means it is time to prepare the garden for the stresses of winter.
I read an article in a gardening magazine recently that lists some standard winter preparation procedures.  Unfortunately, the author chose to debunk many of them and cited that some might even cause more harm than good.  McArdle's feels that these are still valid horticultural practices that should be followed.
The first fall chore is that cleaning up the garden bed will help prevent disease and insect problems the next year.
The author of the article says this is not the case and that the debris is a source of nutrients for the plants the following year while providing a habitat for many beneficial microbes and insects.  The author is right, however, what if there is some diseased material in the debris?  Is it not better to remove the questionable material and add fresh compost and mulch that is known not to be tainted?  That is what we recommend.
The second fall chore is using an anti-desiccant to prevent winter dieback on plant material.
The author says the film like barrier created by the anti-desiccant on the leaf covers the stomata so completely that not only does it prevent moisture loss, it prevents gas exchange as well thus preventing photosynthesis from occurring.  The author then says that anti-desiccants do not help plants survive the winter and can increase injury and mortality.  It would stand to reason then that most of the plant material sprayed with anti-desiccants down through the years would be dying or dead.  The makers of Wilt-Pruf (an anti-desiccant) say their product "dries to form a clear, colorless, flexible, glossy film without interfering with plant growth or materially affecting respiration, osmosis, or photosynthesis."  We still advocate the use of an anti-desiccant to protect your plants.
Over the next couple of weeks we will be talking about more fall chores in the garden.