One of the best things to look forward to in autumn is the gorgeous and vibrant colors of the changing leaves. Glowing amber hues mixed with fiery reds and magentas decorate the outdoor landscape, but as the chilly weather approaches and you ready the solar shades to spend the winter more up than down, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep your magnificent trees happy. Giving your garden a little TLC will go a long way during this fall season.
Prune and trim dead branches
“Out with the old” is the theme of the fall season, and following its message by pruning the trees and trimming their dead branches is one way to keep them strong all winter long. Pruning can be a delicate matter because cutting too soon can do more damage than good by inviting infection or generating fresh buds vulnerable to the cold season.
Once the leaves are gone, it is easier to spot any dead or broken branches to remove. Trimming the intrusive and rotten branches will both improve the health of the tree and prevent the risk of damage to surrounding property.
By waiting for all the leaves to drop in late fall or winter before carefully and judiciously pruning, the trees should be ready to make new buds in the spring. If there is any confusion or uncertainty, consult an arborist.
Fertilize the soil
The fall season is prime time for root growth. Fertilization will maintain the nutrients in the soil for the trees to consume and generate that increase in root production you’re looking for.
During the winter months, the underground systems store energy in starches and must stay healthy for active growth in the spring. Just like we need nutrients to stay healthy, trees need the same treatment to last through the cold and dry weather.
Rake fallen leaves
Fall gets its name from the season’s annual tradition of the shedding of old leaves from trees, and as a result, there are piles on every lawn that need clearing. If there are trees near the patio, the fallen leaves can damage patio furniture or appliances, so be sure to protect them with grill covers, chair covers, and tarps.
Aside from the aesthetic benefits of having a clean and tidy yard, raking the discarded foliage can maintain the health of your trees during the Autumn season. Fallen leaves can harbor harmful disease-causing fungi whose spores overwinter during the cold months and infect the trees in spring.
Too many leaves can also block the sunlight from the plants and grass below them, which can potentially stunt their growth or even kill them. Make raking a seasonal tradition that can allow your garden and trees to thrive.
Use anti-desiccant treatments
It’s no secret that winter can be one of the driest seasons, which is a potential hazard for tree health. Anti-desiccant sprays are known to protect evergreens from damage due to lack of hydration during cold weather.
It works by spreading a waxy film over the foliage to retain its moisture. Under temperate conditions, these trees will draw out moisture from the ground through their roots. In the winter, however, the earth is frozen, so they struggle to replenish their water supply.
Water loss can cause browning and leaf decay on broadleaf evergreens, so using an anti-desiccant spray will improve water retention and maintain tree health.
Keep roots protected
The best ways to protect roots involve most of the same steps that maintain the health of the tree in general – specifically the retention of the soil’s moisture. The cold temperature in the air can easily penetrate dry soil and damage the root system below, so the earth must be covered by mulch and free of any cracks near the planting hole.
Mulch is one of the best ways to keep your trees healthy during the winter months because of its ability to regulate soil temperature and maintain moisture. Apply mulch within a two- to three-foot radius around the tree and keep it around two to four inches high.
Keep the mulch about six inches away from the tree trunk itself to prevent roots from girdling the tree, and make sure to maintain mulch freshness by removing the top layer instead of piling on over the old one.
The insulation mulch provides will help keep the roots warm and moist, allowing them to continue growth through the harsh winter months.
Consider subsurface watering
It may take some extra work to keep the soil moist because of the dry winter season, so subsurface watering may be something to consider. It can keep trees healthy during the driest months and replenish the moisture in the soil.
The process involves an injection probe that delivers water straight into the roots. It is not necessary in relatively humid environments, but worth considering if you are experiencing any extreme droughts in the area.
Use cables if needed
Cabling is dependent on the shape of healthy trees but is not a solution for weak, dying trees. It can help maintain the structure of the trees that can no longer hold their own weight or have been damaged by storms, or extreme temperatures.
These are best considered if there is a risk of property damage based on the direction the tree is growing and they need more long-term repositioning.