Most Frequently Asked Questions: Fall

What steps can I take now to prepare my trees and shrubs for the rigors of winter?
In particularly if rainfall has been inadequate. Your valuable landscape plants will enter dormancy in the most stress-free state possible and will be protected against the drying effects of winter winds. Signs of drought stress include premature leaf drop, curled leaf margins, and browning of leaves. Healthy trees and shrubs can be fertilized in the fall at the time of leaf drop. The point of autumn feeding is to provide a head start for next yearís growth, as nutrients will be more readily available in spring. Fall feeding will not stimulate new growth if you wait for the shorter days and cooler nights of autumn to fertilize, as your plants will harden off. Since you will be fertilizing again in spring, make your fall fertilizer application no more than half of the total yearly allotment. Lastly, apply mulch around the base of your trees and shrubs, but be sure to keep the area just around the trunks clear to prevent rot, insect infestation and entrance of pathogens.
How can I best accomplish fall clean up?
Keep in mind that fall clean up does not mean that your garden must be immaculate. In fact, leaving some fallen leaves and twigs around and especially over the planting beds can be beneficial. This type of cover prevents soil erosion and moderates soil temperature. Add your autumn debris of dry leaves, spent annuals and perennials, pruned twigs, weeds, etc. to your compost pile so next spring and summer you can use the finished compost to enrich your planting areas. Leaving small areas of weeds, branches and leaves can also provide habitats for small wildlife. It is important to remember that pristine landscapes are unnatural and can be devoid of beneficial birds, insects and wildlife.
Is it safe to plant trees and shrubs in the fall?
Broad-leaved and needle-leaved evergreens are best planted in the early fall, up until around October 1 in our area, so that they can become more easily established before winter sets in. Deciduous trees are best planted after leaf drop around October 15 until December 1 before the ground freezes. Be sure planting conditions are suitable; the ground must not be excessively wet or frozen. Water well after planting and apply a mulch around the planting pit. It is important to note that certain tree species are really best planted in early spring; Prunus (ornamental cherries), Quercus (oaks), Liquidambar (sweet gums), Crataegus (hawthorns), and Magnolia (magnolias).
What kind of pruning is best done in fall?
Prune only very late-flowering shrubs such as: Abelia (glossy abelia), Callicarpa (beautyberry), Hibiscus (rose-of-Sharon), and Clethra (summersweet ) at this time. Prune rambler roses and remove all dead or diseased canes. Of course, it is always advisable to prune diseased and dead branches at any time of the year. Fall pruning is not recommended for most deciduous trees, as it is best to wait until well into the dormant season before pruning. In general on early and spring flowering shrubs it is advisable to prune just after they have flowered in late spring to early summer. On shrubs that bloom late in the season, it is advisable to prune them down hard in the early spring, before growth begins.
Can I renovate my lawn in the fall?
Yes, fall is an ideal time to rejuvenate a tired lawn. Cooler temperatures and ample time available for recuperation before summerís heat and drought all work in favor of a fall lawn renovation. Old lawns can benefit from core aeration, since the soil may have become compacted over time, especially if it has been treated with chemicals. To control thatch, an aerating tool with metal tines is used to push into the soil by foot. This procedure aerates the soil and enables earthworms and microorganisms to flourish and to do their valuable work improving the soil. You can also overseed your lawn with a suitable grass seed blend right over your existing turf. Before spreading the seed, topdress the lawn with fresh soil, or scratch the turf with a metal rake to roughen up the soil and create a receptive bed for the new seed.
How can I take care of my houseplants during the cooler weather and lower light conditions of autumn?
Bring in any houseplants that you have summered outdoors when the nightly temperatures hover around 45 degrees. Before bringing them into their permanent indoor winter location, be sure to inspect the leaves for any signs of insects and/or diseases. Spray all surfaces of the leaves of most houseplants (except succulent types) with plain water or water mixed with an insecticidal soap solution to help rid them of any pests. Place them indoors where they can receive adequate light; supplemental lighting may be necessary. As growth slows down or even stops in some cases, do not fertilize again until early spring (except for orchids, African violets and certain other winter-blooming houseplants). Provide humidity by placing plants on a saucer and then on a tray of pebbles that are kept constantly moist. Water less frequently, but water deeply at each watering. Keep leaves free of dust by misting them and wiping them with a soft, moistened cloth. Check frequently for insects, remove them manually and apply insecticidal soap as needed. Every few months take the entire plant, cover the base and wash it down with a warm shower in the bathtub.
I would like to incorporate some plants with fall interest in my garden. What do you recommend?
In addition to the wonderful late-flowering perennials such as chrysanthemums or asters, certain trees and shrubs really offer intense fall color. For brilliant reds, red-oranges and purples choose: maples, sweetgums and dogwoods. For clear yellows choose: birches, ginkgoes, and clethra.

You might also want to choose plants with a persistent berry display including: winterberry hollies, bayberries, and many species of viburnum.

Other great choices for fall interest include ornamental grasses such as: Japanese blood grass, miscananthus, and red switchgrass.
How can I salvage the herbs from my herb garden to grow indoors?
Some herbs, such as parsley, rosemary and chives can be potted up to grow indoors on a sunny windowsill for a few months, but eventually, they will loose vigor. Other ways to enjoy your herbs past the growing season would be to dry them, or to preserve them in oil or vinegar. Herbs can also be kept frozen until ready for use later on in the year.