When it comes to getting gardening advice there is no shortage of options. From gardening advice websites, radio and TV shows, a gardening advice forum, magazines, books and of course other gardeners. Many questions gives for many answers and all will not always agree.
Advice on gardening that works great for one area may not be suitable for another and so on. Some advice is very scientific and precise while other is more like folklore. So which should you use? Probably all of it, or at least a good sampling from all areas. As well use the advice that agrees with your gardening style, personality and expectations.
Since gardening is really an artful expression there is not always a right and wrong. There are a lot of gray zones. Much garden advice is given across the garden fence, freely given but not always on target.
Such an area is when should a gardener clean up the garden for winter? Should one wait until the next spring, or should everything be tidied up in the fall before it gets cold or snows? You will find strong opinions for both sides. Personally I think it should depend on the individual gardener. When do you, as the gardener, have the most time? If the fall is a time when you have more free hours then use the fall, if not use the spring, which ever works best into your life style and commitments.
The reasons for clean up in the fall is to remove all the old foliage and plant debris before winter. In doing so you do improve your chances for less critter and insect damage over the winter. Also a clean bed makes it easier to spread around a bit of mulch if that is your plan. With plants cut back, leaves raked and weeds pulled, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that the garden is going to bed tidy and will wake up in the spring the same. I do regularly clean up my annuals in the fall.
On the other hand, spring clean up allows the plant material to remain in the garden which gives winter protection to the crowns of the plants. This is especially helpful in very cold climates or when you are trying to push the zones a bit. Much of the fall plant material will have seed heads which the birds appreciate over the winter as well the foliage provides them winter shelter. Many plants are actually attractive once covered with frost or snow to give the winter garden a bit of interest. When spring arrives the foliage will have wilted down to a fraction of its volume for carrying off to the compost pile.
What to do? Spring or fall or somewhere in between? The garden will survive either way, so it really is just your personal choice.