With the weather getting colder, the days getting longer, and the trees looking more bare, most of us are ready to sit back and forget about our trees and lawns until the spring. After all, with winter coming on, there’s really not much to do for them now, right? Wrong! Fall is actually a more crucial time for tree care than you might think. Below are some tree care tips relating to pruning, planting, and watering that you may find useful.
Contrary to popular belief, fall is actually an excellent time for planting trees. Rather than being killed by the cold, they can actually use the winter months to adapt more strongly before starting major growth in the spring. The following short video explains further:
The best thing you can do for your trees when it comes to pruning in the fall is to remove any damaged, diseased, or dead limbs. The reason for this, according to Jimmie Gibson Jr., is that these limbs “all serve as points where diseases or pests could enter.” Thus, by eliminating them you are protecting your trees. Additionally, removing a large dead or dying branch before it has the chance to fall on you, your house, or your car is always a good safety precaution.
What you do not want to do in the fall is any major pruning. The main reason for this is that, since the trees will be dormant throughout the coming months, they will have a much harder time healing from any pruning wounds. Penelope O’Sullivan explains this in more detail:
“In early fall, pruning wounds close more slowly and plants are more at risk for fungal diseases than at other times of year. For most trees, the best time for major pruning is late winter to early spring because wounds close faster. Pruning in late summer and early fall may also stimulate new growth, which has little time to harden before cold weather comes. The cold can harm this tender new growth, and the tree may need more pruning in spring to remove the damage.” (For full article, click here.)
So fall is a good time to remove any unhealthy limbs from your tree, but you should save any major pruning for later on.
Generally, trees need water in the winter just as much as they do in the summer. Obviously watering trees in midwinter when the ground is frozen solid is not going to be effective, which is why fall tree watering is important. However, the time at which you water trees in the fall is important as well. According to Jimmie Gibson Jr. in the article quoted above, you should avoiding water your trees in the early fall because they are still growing. Water will encourage new growth, which will be destroyed in the first frost, injuring the tree. He goes on to say the following:
“Once the deciduous trees have lost their leaves in late autumn, it is time to start watering again. … By late autumn, the tops of the trees have gone dormant, so they will not produce new growth. The tree is busy moving nutrients around in preparation for dormancy.”
Thus, fall is an excellent time for planting trees and doing some careful pruning. Watering in the fall is important as well, but only the late fall. Now, get out there and care for those trees!