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Someday soon, it will finally feel like fall. Joy will fill your heart when it does, because you'll think gardening chores are over for this year. Not so fast, recliner melons (Grumpy's updated version of couch potatoes). If you want to spend less time fighting bugs and diseases in the garden next year, attend to the following simple tasks this month and next.

Task #1 -- Clean up plant debris. Pull up summer veggie and flower plants. Collect rotten fruit that's fallen to the ground or still hanging on the plant. Rake up spotted or mildewed leaves. This stuff harbors pests that may overwinter on debris or in the ground and show up in your garden next year. Toss it out with the trash or compost it.

Task #2 --  Apply oil spray. Spray hardy plants prone to insects and diseases according to label directions with horticultural oil. This will kill overwintering insects and mites and their eggs, as well as disease spores. Also spray tropical or other tender plants before you bring them inside for the winter. They may carry hitchhikers that could spread to your houseplants.

Task #3 -- If you have an empty veggie garden now and live where winters are cold, till the soil. This exposes overwintering insects and their pupae to cold air that will kill them.

Task #4 -- Don't save used potting soil for next year's plants. It may contain pests. Dump it in the compost. Start with fresh potting soil next year.

Task #5 -- Don't plant the same stuff in the same place every year. This goes for veggies, flowers, and small fruits like strawberries. Doing so inevitably leads to a build-up of pests in the soil that relish those plants. Mix things up. Move things around. Plant something new every year.

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