While the calendar says it’s autumn, the weather may seem like it’s still summer – or winter! Either way, your trees will need your help this fall to prepare for the upcoming winter season. We’ve pulled together our best fall tree care tips so you’ll know exactly what to do in September and October in the Front Range area.
Continue Watering Your Trees
Hot, dry weather extending into fall is common and can stress your trees as they’re storing up energy for winter. Water-stressed deciduous trees won’t show the same brilliant fall colors as healthy trees and are more susceptible to disease.
If it stays hot and dry into fall, keep your trees irrigated and wait to turn off your irrigation system until cool weather starts. Heat and water stress can damage trees both immediately and in their long-term health.
Our highly-variable autumn weather is one reason why it’s so important to choose the right tree species for your property. After they’re properly planted, giving them the right care goes a long way to ensuring you have a healthy landscape for the long term.
You can continue watering your trees into fall if:
- Daytime temperatures are still warm or hot
- Nighttime temperatures are cool but do not reach freezing
- Soil remains warm and friable
- Rainfall isn’t regularly occurring or in the near-term forecast
Once these conditions change to consistently cool or cold temperatures, rainfall starts, and daylight hours shorten, your trees will start closing up shop for their annual dormancy period. This is the time when you can drain your garden hoses and turn off your irrigation system (don’t forget to blow it out!).
Until then, be ready to give your trees a little extra help.
And remember, any young trees that you planted in the spring or last fall need extra attention. Their root systems are small and can’t reach far to find water and nutrients so they will be most affected by water stress!
Winter watering is also important, especially for recently-planted trees. We offer a winter watering service so you can keep your trees healthy without dealing with setting up, emptying, and re-storing hoses throughout the winter.
Ease Off Fertilizers
Fall is when your garden starts to wind down and prepare for winter. Late fall is also the time when you should stop adding fertilizers.
Fertilizers, especially those heavy in nitrogen and phosphorus, stimulate new leaf and bud growth. Because resources are scarce in late autumn, trees use their stored energy reserves to push out those leaves. However, any new growth that appears in late fall will be killed by the first frost, and your trees’ energy stores will be depleted right when they need them most.
Save your fertilization for spring and late summer/early fall when your garden is actively growing and your plants will appreciate the extra nutrition as they make leaves, fruit, and flowers.
Start Your Fall Clean Up
It’s always easier to keep up with tasks instead of leaving them all for the last minute, and the same is true for your garden. As fall approaches, your list of garden tasks may look daunting, but you can tackle them one by one.
- Clean up garden debris and falling leaves. If you have a compost pile, now’s a good time to turn it and add your green waste. Remember to discard any garden waste that may contain fungal spores, bacteria, or destructive insects that were hoping to overwinter in your garden!
- Don’t provide fuel for wildfires. If you have accumulated garden debris, it’s a good idea to fill your green waste cans with it or have your debris hauled away. Help keep everyone fire-safe by responsibly disposing of potential tinder.
- Add compost around your trees’ dripline. While your trees may be preparing for dormancy now, they’ll appreciate the added soil nutrients when they wake up in spring.
- Replenish mulch around your trees. Mulch helps regulate soil temperatures and will protect your trees’ fine feeder roots from the upcoming freezing weather. Adding it atop a layer of compost gives your trees the most benefit. Don’t forget that we have free mulch available!
- Check your trees for pests and damage. You’ll want to get rid of any egg cases or cocoons that contain destructive insect larvae. Also, check for overgrown, split, broken or otherwise damaged tree branches that may break or fall in winter storms or under heavy snow and ice loads. You’ll want to wait until winter to prune, but you’ll know what branches to keep an eye on.
Protect Your Trees
It’s also a good time to make sure you have winter tree protection materials such as burlap wrap and wire mesh ready to protect your trees in the coming winter. As fall temperatures drop and winter approaches, you’ll want your trees to be ready for:
- Freezing temperatures that make trees brittle and can crack bark.
- Road salt dissolved in rainwater or melted ice which can burn evergreen leaves and increase soil salinity. For more information, see our tips for preventing winter salt damage.
- Foraging winter animals that gnaw on tree bark and tree roots. To protect your trees from winter animal damage, you’ll want to put protective measures in place before the ground freezes.
Wrap your trees after temperatures cool and any spray irrigation is turned off so that layers of burlap don’t trap moisture that can encourage fungal diseases. Send yourself a reminder to remove wraps before temperatures rise and ice melts in spring!