Knowledge To Grow – Tips and Tasks for the Fall Landscape

Fall is a great time of the year, with football season getting started and festivals and outdoor activities waiting to be enjoyed. It is also a time of year to thoroughly inspect your outdoor space. Chores such as cleaning up and mulching will help your landscape get off to a better start next spring. Fall is also a great time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and spring blooming bulbs.

Giving your landscape a good cleaning this fall will help to prevent disease and insect problems for the next growing season since many pests overwinter in debris such as leaves and twigs. Clean up any fallen debris from diseased plants and remove it from your yard. Remove any dead, broken or diseased branches and twigs from trees and bushes. Do not do any major pruning until the plant had gone dormant. Inspect your trees for any limbs that, if covered in a layer of heavy ice, could break off and cause damage to buildings or landscape plantings.

After the leaves have fallen, give your landscape a fresh look by spreading a layer of mulch onto the beds. Two to four inches is sufficient. If there is already enough mulch on the bed, take a rake and mix it up a bit to bring some fresher looking mulch to the top.  Take care to not pile mulch up next to the trunks of trees and bushes as this can encourage pests and disease.  Avoid covering low lying leaves or needles of evergreens with mulch.

Early fall is a good time to apply broadleaf weed killers.  Spray on a calm day to prevent product drift and be sure to understand and follow all instructions.

Prevent frost cracking (sunscald) of young, thin-barked trees by wrapping tree trunks with a commercial trunk wrap.  I like to use a section of black, flexible, plastic drain pipe.  Purchase the size that will fit around your tree plus a couple of inches and the length you need to cover it.  Cut a slit in the length of the drain pipe and fit it around your tree.  Remember to take it off in the spring.

Prevent rabbit and rodent feeding damage by erecting a barrier around such plants with ¼ inch metal hardware cloth.  Be sure to keep the mulch pulled back from the trunk and extend the hardware cloth all the way to the soil.  I like to anchor my barriers to the ground with metal, pound-in landscape pins.

Keep plants, especially newly planted stock well watered until the ground freezes.  Evergreens are particularly susceptible to drying out over the winter through a process called transpiration.  When the ground is frozen the plants roots are no longer able to take up water to replace that which is lost through the tops.  Give them some extra moisture if rainfall is lacking.

Get out and enjoy some wonderful fall weather in the next few weeks and have some fun while caring for your landscape.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.