Autumn is just around the corner and it is such a wonderful time of the year. The colors on trees and shrubs can be quite showy. It is also the time of the year to prepare our landscapes for fall.
Early fall is the time to fence our trees and shrubs to protect them from the deer rubbing their antlers on them to remove the velvet. All it takes is one night and the damage is done and in most cases the damage is irreversible. It always seems like they go after this years’ or newly planted trees and shrubs first. There are many different ways to accomplish this task, just look around and see what seems to be working.
Autumn is also the time to make sure all perennial plants have a good drink of water, especially before going into winter. This is especially important to our evergreens as they continue to use water whenever the temperature is above freezing.
Once the leaves start to fall off the trees or shrubs is a good time to start looking at any pruning that may need to be done. Fall or early winter pruning works for most plants, but not maples or late budding shrubs like lilacs.
Lawns also need a good drink before winter sets in, as this helps to establish or keep a deep strong root system. This can be accomplished with two good watering’s per month in the fall. Fall applications of fertilizer are very important to lawns, as this keeps the top green, but much more important the roots are stimulated to grow so the grass is stronger going into spring. Try not to fertilize trees in the early fall as this could cause regrowth which could freeze and damage the tree.
I continue to keep my mower height at around three inches going into the fall as this promotes deep roots. There is a direct correlation between the height of the grass and how deep the roots grow. The deeper the roots grow the less frequent watering is required and there is less disease, insect and weed issues.
Next look at your flowerbeds, as some perennials need to be pruned, but many others will add winter interest, so they should be left especially the ornamental grasses. These perennials then can be pruned back in early spring. By leaving leaves or other organic matter in the flower beds, in the fall and winter time will help insulate the soil from harsh weather and help hold in the moisture, this is especially important where the winds blow. This material can be removed in the spring if you prefer not to have it, but it always amazes me at how fast the organic material disappears the next year.
I really like to plant in the fall, especially trees, shrubs and perennials, including grass. During Autumn, the temperatures start to drop, especially at night, and the day length is shorter, so there is less stress on the plants and the roots have the opportunity to develop for the next year. Even though the top may not be growing or the leaves have fallen off, the roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes. Also this time of year you can get a good deal on plants. Make sure these plants get plenty of water, but do not over water these plants especially if you have heavy clay soils.
Autumn is also time to plant spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, and snowdrops. Also consider replanting some cold hardy annuals for some extra color this autumn.
Scott Hininger is with the Sheridan County Extension office.