As both temperatures and leaves drop this time of year, it’s clear that a new season has arrived and that all of nature is preparing for the upcoming winter. It’s a great reminder that there are several fall tree care tasks you can do to prepare for the changing season as well.
In this article, we’ll go over some simple things you can do in the fall to help your trees, shrubs, and yard prepare for winter, including:
- Look over your trees for signs of damage
- Keep up regular watering
- Plant new trees or shrubs
- Protect young and newly planted trees
- Put down or replenish mulch
- Wrap vulnerable trees and shrubs
- Clean up yard debris
- Create compost from fallen leaves
- Prepare for winter pruning
- Schedule deep root fertilization
These simple tasks can improve the overall health of your landscape, enhance your local ecosystem, and ensure that your trees are prepared for whatever winter may bring.
Inspect Your Trees and Shrubs
Significant damage from storms, winds, and pests can happen over the summer months, so a good first step is to take a good look at your trees and shrubs. Take a look both before the leaves have fallen and after branches are bare (it’s easier to see structural issues when the leaves are gone).
Here’s what to look for:
- storm damage, such as broken, split, cracked, or hanging branches, as well as torn bark
- signs of disease or pest infestation, such as dead sections of your tree, diseased-looking leaves, or other issues. Check these 8 signs of a sick tree.
- signs of decay (see this article to identify tree decay)
- crossing, rubbing, or poorly placed branches that should be removed (winter is the perfect time for structural pruning)
- loose or broken cables or structural supports
Call the arborists at Rayzor’s Edge Tree Service if you notice anything that concerns you. Some things should be taken care of before winter arrives while others are best left until winter when your trees are dormant.
Keep Watering Regularly
One of the signs that your tree isn’t receiving enough water is if the leaves change color and drop much earlier in the year than normal. It’s important to continue watering your trees in the fall, especially if:
- your trees were planted in the last few years,
- it’s been a dry summer, or
- your trees are stressed.
How late into fall can you continue watering?
If there’s no regular rainfall, you can still water your plants, trees, and shrubs if:
- the days are still warm,
- the nights are cool but there hasn’t been a frost yet, and
- the soil can still absorb and hold water.
Once the ground begins to freeze, you can drain your garden hoses for the winter and turn off any irrigation systems.
Plant New Trees
One of the best parts of fall, in our opinion, is that it is the ideal time to add new trees to your property! Autumn is a good tree planting time because:
- Days are still warm and sunny
- Nights are cool but do not yet reach freezing
- Soil is still warm and easily worked
- Rainfall and irrigation water won’t freeze
You can start fall tree planting after Labor Day and continue until we start to see hard freezes, usually toward the end of November.
PRO TIP: Now is the ideal time to check out trees you might want to add to your garden for fall color – you can see them in their full autumn glory before choosing
To help you choose the right tree for your property and plant it correctly, check out our tree planting resources for Connecticut residents.
- How to Properly Plant a Tree
- How Deep Should You Plant a Tree?
- Best Connecticut Native Trees for Spring Flowers
- Best Connecticut Native Trees for Fall Foliage Color
- Problem Trees to Avoid Planting in Connecticut
If you’d like some help selecting the perfect tree for your yard, choosing where to plant it, or need a hand planting the tree, contact Rayzor’s Edge Tree Service to discuss our tree planting services.
Take Care of Young Trees
Any tree planted or transplanted in the last two years needs more attention than established trees. Their underdeveloped root system means that they can’t yet absorb as much water or nutrients as mature trees, putting them at greater risk for winter damage.
Give newly planted trees the best chance of survival with these simple steps:
- Ensure they receive enough water – Read our watering guidelines for newly-planted trees for details.
- Protect them from the elements – Some kinds of trees, for example, may need to be wrapped in burlap to prevent sunscald, desiccation or winter burn, deer browsing, or other winter issues.
- Add a layer of mulch around young trees – This can help the surrounding soil retain water, stay warm, and even prevent some rodent damage to tree roots.
Add a Layer of Organic Mulch
Which brings us to our next fall task, adding or replacing mulch around your trees and plants. A layer of organic mulch protects tree roots from freezing temperatures and temperature fluctuations throughout the fall and winter months, especially if we don’t get a lot of snowfall.
The key is to place mulch correctly. Here’s what to do:
- Make sure it’s not touching the tree trunk (pull it back a few inches).
- Pile it no higher than 3 to 4 inches, with less near the trunk.
- Spread it all the way out to the tree’s drip line (the edge of the tree canopy).
If you had previously added mulch, check to see if it needs to be replenished. Organic mulch will eventually break down, adding needed nutrients to the soil around your trees and plants. But as it breaks down, it will need to be replaced to maintain the ideal 3 to 4-inch depth.
Wrap Vulnerable Trees & Shrubs
Mulch can do a lot to prepare your trees for the cold winter months, but some trees (and shrubs) may need a bit more protection.
As we mentioned in our winter tree care article, some trees and plants, especially small trees and evergreens can benefit from being wrapped in a protective burlap wrap.
We recommend that any wrapping be completed before temperatures drop below freezing. Winter wrapping can protect trees from:
- Road salt spray
- Winter sunscald
- Deer browsing and deer damage
- Heavy snowfall
Make sure your wraps cover the plant from the ground up and are tied securely (otherwise winter winds, snow and ice, or animals might dislodge them).
The other form of protection some plants might benefit from is scheduling anti-desiccant sprays. When sprayed on broadleaved evergreens, it can prevent them from drying out over the winter. In most cases, anti-desiccant is applied once in fall and once in mid-winter, depending on weather conditions.
Clean Up Your Yard
If you have any fallen sticks or branches on your property, you may want to remove them from your lawn before the snow arrives. Once they’re buried under snow, they become a safety hazard that you (or a child or pet) may trip or fall on.
As you clean the debris from your yard, check if you have any diseased or pest-ridden garden waste. If you do, be sure to throw that away instead of letting it stay in your yard or adding it to a compost pile. Keeping it in your yard gives the fungal spores, bacteria, or destructive insects a chance to overwinter and infect additional trees and plants next spring.
For healthy tree leaves, collect them and use them in your composting, keep them until spring to use as leaf mulch in a garden bed, or use a lawnmower to mulch the leaves on your lawn to act as a natural fertilizer.
For now, ideas about what to do with autumn leaves, read our article on how to use fallen leaves to improve your lawn and garden.
Schedule Winter Tree Pruning
Winter is one of the best times of year to have your trees professionally pruned. Pests are dormant, diseases are less likely to spread, and structural issues can be more clearly seen on deciduous trees once they have lost their leaves.
⇒ Learn all about the benefits of winter tree pruning.
Trees can also be removed during the winter, and it some cases it can be better for your yard, especially when the ground is frozen. The heavy equipment and large sections of the tree are less likely to damage your lawn if everything is frozen.
Discuss Fertilizing Options with a Professional
While early fall fertilization (especially deep root fertilization) can give your trees extra nutrients they need for the winter months, fertilizing later in the fall is generally not recommended.
That’s why it’s important to discuss fertilization options with an arborist. A tree care professional understands the seasonal changes that trees go through and how they react to fertilization.
If you’re not sure whether or not your trees need to be fertilized, give us a call. We’ll inspect your trees and landscape and recommend when and what type of fertilization might be most beneficial for your particular trees. We’ll also tell you when it shouldn’t be done or isn’t needed (there’s no point wasting money on unnecessary fertilization that contributes to the fertilizer runoff problem in Connecticut).
Need Help With Your Fall Tasks?
The professionals at Rayzor’s Edge Tree Service can help with many of the fall tree care tasks mentioned here. Contact us soon for consultation this fall or to schedule tree care services.
Don’t forget that we have tree care tips for other times of the year, too!
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