Garden Detox: Clear the Way for a Fresh Start with Proven Cleanup Strategies

From juice cleanses to flush unhealthy substances from the body to digital purges to restore mental focus and well-being, detoxes appear to be as popular as ever this year.

We won’t weigh in on the merits of rejuvenation efforts like these for humans, but when it comes to gardens, we at Vego Garden are big fans of a good detox.

This process, also known as a garden clean-up or garden hygiene, is the process of clearing away things that can interfere with your plants’ well-being and establishing an environment where they can thrive. A garden detox usually includes taking steps to promote healthy soil, removing debris, and creating a clean, organized garden space. 

The benefits include healthy plants, minimized weed invasions, more access to sunlight for your plants, and a more attractive, restorative outdoor environment for you.

Optimum timing 

Garden Detox for a fresh start for all gardeners | Vego Garden

Many gardeners make garden clean-ups an annual routine, one of the steps they take to prepare to plant in the spring. And that makes sense. Chances are good that your garden will have plenty of accumulated leaves, branches, grass, and other debris by the end of winter. Clearing some of it in the spring will help you spot hidden weeds and protect your plants from disease and fungus spores that the debris could be holding.

Plus, warmer temperatures accelerate plants’ metabolisms, allowing them to recover more quickly from pruning or other detox-related maintenance activities.

If you don’t adhere to routine cleaning, keep a close eye on your garden’s conditions. Warning signs that your garden may need a thorough detox include shriveled or pale leaves, the presence of dead plants, fallen branches, excessive dead leaves and other debris, the emergence of weeds, pest infestations, or dry, cracked, or compacted soil.

Dry, cracked soil means its time for gardening hygiene | Vego Garden

Once you know it’s time for a cleaning, you can follow the steps below to give your garden a thorough detox.

Clear away leaves — at least some of them

While we have mentioned the removal of dead leaves, we wouldn’t get too overzealous with this step. Leaves provide valuable nutrients for your plants as they decompose. So instead of aiming for a leaf-free surface, aim to remove thick piles sitting on top of your perennial plants. 

Remove heavy accumulations of twigs, grasses, and other debris as well.

Get rid of dead plants

If you have any dead annual plants in your garden (plants that complete their life cycle in one season), it's time to remove them. To do this, pull the entire plant, including roots, from the soil. 

If you’re cleaning a vegetable garden, remove dead veggies that you missed during your last harvest.

You’ll also want to remove — and discard — diseased plants or cut away diseased portions of larger plants.

While you can add dead annual plants to your compost bin, exercise caution with diseased plants. If your composting system doesn't reach high temperatures, it's best to discard diseased material separately to prevent the spread of diseases.

Evaluate your plants’ pruning needs

Pruning is considered part of the garden detox process, but you want to make sure the timing is right for each plant you trim back.

Most shrubs, for example, can benefit from pruning in early spring. You’ll encourage new growth and help prevent disease. But, if you prune some shrubs too early, you might accidentally remove their buds. Research each plant to check the best timetable and methods for pruning.

Tackle your weeds

Dandelions are invasive and most gardeners want them gone | Vego Garden

Your detox should include a thorough weeding session. Try to do this after a rain or dampen the ground. This will make it easier for you to pull them out. As you weed, make sure you don’t leave roots behind — everything needs to go.

(One warning, while it may be worthwhile to compost dead annuals, the same does not hold true for weeds. You don’t want them returning to your garden.)

Later, when you add fresh mulch to your garden, it will help minimize the growth of new weeds.

Give your soil a check-up

Not only is detox about clearing away things that shouldn’t be in your garden, it’s also about making sure your garden has what your current and new plants will need.

With that in mind, take time to test your soil’s pH to see if it’s too acidic or alkaline. You can add products to correct it if necessary.

You’ll also want to prepare your garden bed for the planting season by layering fresh soil with organic, recyclable material that will contribute nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Top your garden bed with compost and organic fertilizer.

Add new mulch

Gardens love gardeners for a fresh layer of organic mulch | Vego Garden

As we mentioned, by adding a layer of mulch to your garden, you can help limit weed growth. The mulch also will add nutrients to your soil as it breaks down, minimize water evaporation, and keep plant roots cool when the weather heats up.

So, after prepping your soil, spread a thin layer of organic mulch, about 2-4 inches deep, on the soil’s surface. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the base of plants to prevent issues like rot and pests.

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