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FAQs for Fall Gardening


Q.

What steps can I take now to prepare my trees and shrubs for the rigors of winter?

Begin by watering generously while the plant is still growing and active, particularly if rainfall has been inadequate. Your valuable landscape plants will enter dormancy in the most stress-free state possible and will be protected against the drying effects of winter winds.

Healthy trees and shrubs can be fertilized in the fall at the time of leaf drop. The point of autumn feeding is to provide a head start for next year's growth, as nutrients will be more readily available in spring. Fall feeding will not stimulate new growth if you wait for the shorter days and cooler nights of autumn to fertilize, as your plants will harden off. Since you will be fertilizing again in spring, make your fall fertilizer application no more than half of the total yearly allotment.

Lastly, apply mulch around the base of your trees and shrubs, but be sure to keep the area just around the trunks clear to prevent rot, insect infestation and incursion of pathogens.

Q.

Is it safe to plant trees and shrubs in the fall?

Broad-leaved and needle-leaved evergreens are best planted in the early fall, up until around October 1 in our area, so that they can become more easily established before winter sets in. Deciduous trees are best planted after leaf drop, around October 15 until December 1, before the ground freezes. Be sure planting conditions are suitable; the ground must not be excessively wet or frozen. Water well after planting and apply a mulch around the planting pit. It is important to note that certain tree species are really best planted in early spring: Prunus (ornamental cherries), Quercus (oaks), Liquidambar (sweet gums), Crataegus (hawthorns) and Magnolia (magnolias).
 

Q.

What kind of pruning is best done in fall?

Prune only very late-flowering shrubs, such as Abelia (glossy abelia), Callicarpa (beautyberry), Hibiscus (rose-of-Sharon) and Clethra (summersweet) at this time. Prune rambler roses and remove all dead or diseased canes. Of course, it is always advisable to prune diseased and dead branches at any time of the year. Fall pruning is not recommended for most deciduous trees, as it is best to wait until well into the dormant season before pruning. In general, on early and spring flowering shrubs it is advisable to prune just after they have flowered in late spring to early summer. On shrubs that bloom late in the season, it is advisable to prune them down hard in the early spring, before growth begins.

Q.

Can I renovate my lawn in the fall?

Yes, fall is an ideal time to rejuvenate a tired lawn. Cooler temperatures and ample time available for recuperation before summer's heat and drought all work in favor of a fall lawn renovation. Old lawns can benefit from core aeration, since the soil may have become compacted over time, especially if it has been treated with chemicals. To control thatch, an aerating tool with metal tines is used to push into the soil by foot. This procedure aerates the soil and enables earthworms and microorganisms to flourish and to do their valuable work improving the soil. You can also overseed your lawn with a suitable grass seed blend right over your existing turf. Before spreading the seed, topdress the lawn with fresh soil, or scratch the turf with a metal rake to roughen up the soil and create a receptive bed for the new seed.

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