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A Primer on Fall Tree Maintenance

Your trees successfully take care of themselves all summer long, but once the autumn air begins cooling down and winter threatens a soon-coming frost, it’s time to give them some proper attention—attention that goes much further than simply raking the leaves.

Fall tree maintenance should be an important part of your fall landscaping regimen. Read on to find out how to care for your trees when the weather starts to cool down.

Pre-Winter Maintenance for Your Trees

Rake up leaves, fallen fruit, twigs, and other debris from around the base of your trees. Leaving this organic matter to decay around the base of the tree can draw insects and possibly promote fungal or bacterial growths on the bark.

Prune your trees during the fall. Remove all dead, damaged, and diseased branches with pruning shears or a saw, depending on the size of the branches. This will also help keep pests and disease from overrunning or infecting the tree. Since dead or dying branches can be hazardous if they fall, you should do this for safety reasons.

You can also prune a tree in the fall to help shape it. Be careful how much you cut away, as this can affect flowering the following spring.

Watering and Fertilization

Wait to fertilize your trees until just before or directly after the first frost. Fertilizing trees too early in the fall can cause a burst of growth. The freezing temperatures can then damage the fledging growth and kill it before it matures.

Stop watering your trees in the fall until the majority of their leaves have fallen off. As with fertilizing, this can cause new growth to form on the tree, which cold winter weather can severely damage. You can resume watering your trees once the leaves have all dropped until the ground freezes. Since evergreen trees never lose their leaves or needles, take your cue from the surrounding deciduous trees regarding when to stop and resume watering.

Keep your trees toasty warm and protected from the elements by wrapping the trunks with burlap or special tree wrapping. By doing so, you can help protect the tree from extreme temperatures and winter sun scorch. This holds especially true for younger trees, which are still very delicate.

Only wrap the trunk of the tree from the ground to the lowest branch. If you live in a cold climate and you have trees with shallow root systems, cover the ground around the tree with roughly six inches of mulch to help protect the roots. Make sure that the mulch is at least six inches away from the base of the tree. Otherwise, the mulch could retain too much moisture and promote rot and pest infestation.

Plant a tree! That’s right – fall is an excellent time to plant most trees. Strive to plant trees roughly six weeks before the first hard frost. Getting your new tree in the ground at this time will help ensure that its roots establish themselves before the next growing season. Caring for your trees during the fall is an important way to keep them thriving, so ensure you take the proper steps each season to keep yours standing tall.