Trees and shrubs need care at any time of year, but fall offers a particularly good opportunity for protection and maintenance. Doing a little work now will ensure that your landscape plants are able to pull through the cold months ahead and come back green and healthy when spring rolls around.
Whether or not you fertilize your trees and shrubs in fall depends on a few factors. These plants generally don’t require fertilizer applications at this time of year, especially if they are already well-established and you live in a cool climate. Autumn is, however, a good time to replenish mulch beds around trees and shrubs. Fall leaves provide an abundance of free mulch, and they can be shredded and spread below plants to provide nutrition and insulate the roots against the cold.
Plants need water in fall just as they do in summer, but whether you water your plants now depends on your climate – normal rainfall is often enough for healthy trees and shrubs – and your usual watering schedule. As a general rule, trees and shrubs need water as long as the ground as not frozen, but you should gradually reduce watering by mid-October to let them harden off for the winter.
Trimming Vs. Pruning
Fall is the ideal time to trim trees and shrubs that have become overgrown, but it’s generally not a good time for pruning. Many flowering shrubs will not bloom the next spring if you prune them in fall, but this depends on the species, so it’s wise to do a little research on your specific shrub varieties.
Planting and Transplanting
Trees and shrubs redirect their energy during fall away from foliage production and toward developing healthy root systems, which makes this an ideal time to plant and transplant new additions to your lawn. Early fall is the best time, allowing plants to establish a healthy root system before winter. Be sure to give new trees and shrubs plenty of mulch and water.
Winter can be stressful for trees and shrubs, especially newly planted ones, so be sure to provide protection. A good layer of mulch will keep plants warm and help them retain moisture. Pile mulch generously around the bases of trees and shrubs, but don’t let it touch the bark to help fend off fungal infections. Trees – especially young ones – can also benefit from a tree protector around the trunk to make them less vulnerable to critters that would eat the bark during the lean winter months. For evergreen shrubs, antidessicant or antitranspirant sprays are available to help keep them from drying out during the winter.