Fall Planting and Pruning Chris Tyson, Extension Agent

Fall Planting and Pruning
Chris Tyson, Extension Agent
With every season of the year, there come projects, chores, and problems that
arise outdoors in our lawns and gardens. Fall is no exception; there are many tasks that
can be done outdoors now that will save you time and headaches in the winter and spring
if you get a jump start on them now. As many of our grass, trees, and plants prepare to
go dormant, take a look around your home to see what you can do this fall.
Shrubs and Ornamentals: Pruning in late summer or early fall promotes new growth
of ornamentals around your home that will be susceptible to cold injury. Wait to do
any heavy pruning until late winter or early spring to prevent frost injury on plants
around the house.
This time of year is also excellent for planting large shade trees, fruit trees,
and many smaller, ornamental trees. The cooler months are the best because the tree can
use all of its energy to establish roots instead of supporting leaves and fruit. While you
might not think too much is going on with a tree this time of year, because of no foliage,
the roots will be actively growing and preparing for spring. Planting a few months before
spring will give the tree time to establish roots and store energy for spring budding.
It’s important to plant a tree correctly if you want to ensure its survival. Healthy
trees start before planting. Select the proper plant for the site. Do not plant a shade loving
tree like dogwood in the sun. Do not plant a sun-loving tree like crape myrtle in the
shade. Dig very wide planting holes. They need to be a minimum of two to five times the
diameter of the root ball. This gives the tree lots of soft soil to send roots out into. Never
plant a tree deeper than it originally grew. If feasible, you may want to plant into raised
beds to insure good drainage.
Planting in the cooler months does not mean that trees don’t need to be watered,
however. If you plant a tree, make sure it gets adequate water, but is not flooded. Roots
that are too wet can kill a tree, and this is probably the number one killer of new trees. It
would probably be a good a idea to give a newly planted tree a light watering every
couple of days for the first month or so (in hot weather it would need water every day).
Pruning Trees:
The best time to prune large trees is in the cooler months during
dormancy, after all the leaves have fallen – so you take no chances on weakening trees
and fewer chances of introducing disease and pests. Remove dead and declining twigs
and branches. Don’t leave pests food and shelter for the winter. Properly prune branches
that will touch the ground when loaded with rain, foliage, or fruit. Foliage that comes in
contact with the soil can invite pests and disease.
If you have any questions about your lawn or garden, call me at the Worth County
Extension office at 776 – 8216.