Ask the Chuckster: Preparing plants for early fall

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Ask the Chuckster: Preparing plants for early fall

By Chuck Marsh

Here we are between the summer and fall. The locust and cherry trees are already losing leaves and the long-range weather forecasts for our area show that the summer heat has broken for the year.

When can I start fall planting?

With the heat breaking early and finally getting some nourishing rain, we can start fall planting now. You will need to be able to water newly planted trees and shrubs regularly, especially as the drier fall days appear.

Plants that are cold sensitive will especially benefit from earlier planting because they will have longer to get their roots established before the soil turns cold. Planting now, before plants go dormant, will also lead to superior plant establishment and stronger spring growth. Smaller plants will also be less susceptible to frost heave over winter if planted with time to get roots established before winter.

Can I still prune and fertilize my plants?

In general, it’s too late to prune and fertilize plants this year. Both of these activities stimulate new growth and it’s time for the plants to move their energy inward and prepare for dormancy. You can still remove any dead or diseased material from trees and shrubs, but only remove as much wood as necessary.

How else can I help my plants this time of year?

Sanitation! Removing dropped fruit lessens the pest pressure next year. If you are leaving the fallen leaves, you can help them decompose faster and minimize fungal diseases by spraying the fallen leaves with compost tea and if your plants can use more lime, sprinkle lime on the leaves this fall.

I would also be preparing to freshen and thicken up your mulch before winter. I think we’ve got another cold one ahead of us this year. I’m expecting the cold weather to come early this year as well, so begin making your winter preparations sooner rather than later.

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