Add These 6 Items to Your Tree-Care Checklist This Fall
The Sunshine State doesn’t typically see the larger-than-life fall foliage displays of the North. When many other states see the first changes of fall in late September, you might still bask in comfortable 80- to 90-degree temperatures and take refuge under a still-green and shady maple tree.
However, colder temperatures can, and often do, reach Tampa Bay. By early to mid-November, you may notice a few persimmons, dogwoods, and cypresses revealing their classic red, orange, and purple hues and shedding their leaves with glorious abandon.
And once these leaves drop, you’ll know the time has come to prepare your trees for winter weather. To ensure your trees flourish and thrive come spring, don’t forget to do the following.
1. Plant New Trees
Although Earth Day doesn’t roll around until April, most experts agree that fall remains the ideal time to plant trees. In warmer climates (zones nine and ten, which include Tampa and Orlando), you should plant after the first few frosts.
Why wait until fall rather than spring? The tree goes dormant in the colder ground, and it requires less food to survive. Any nourishment the tree does receive will go toward the roots rather than the leaves, so the tree has more time to grow a healthier, hardier root system.
2. Prune Branches and Remove Deadwood
If you’ve been waiting to prune trees until early spring, wait no more. Once again, fall pruning offers plenty of benefits that your trees won’t otherwise enjoy in the spring.
When you prune in warmer weather, the fresh cuts attract insects and bacteria that could lead to infection and decay. Furthermore, when you prune in the spring, you limit your tree’s blooming potential, as the tree has to recover before it sends out new buds.
In the fall, on the other hand, the dropped leaves make the limbs more visible, so you can prune more precisely. And when you remove dead or weak branches, you reduce the risk of limbs breaking off in windy winter weather.
3. Lay Slow-Release Fertilizer
Although trees do become dormant during the winter, they still require some nutrients to grow and stay healthy. And after a busy summer, your trees likely sapped many of the important minerals from the soil.
To give your trees a healthy, balanced diet, hire a professional to test the soil around your trees for any gaps in essential nutrients. Then, select a slow-release fertilizer that offers the appropriate percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium.
As with planting, you’ll want to fertilize your trees about one month after the first frost. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the entire root zone. In older trees, the root zone could extend as far as three times beyond the area where the branches end.
4. Water Deeply
Watering trees in the fall can seem tricky to the inexperienced. But as a general rule, you should stop watering trees until all the leaves have fallen. As most trees still grow in early autumn, the water will encourage new growth, which could die during a frost.
But by late autumn, after the leaves have fallen and the first few frosts have occurred, you can start watering again. Your trees will need plenty of water to see them through winter, so don’t feel afraid to water deeply (one to two feet at a time) until the ground freezes.
5. Treat for Insects
As temperatures drop, many insect species will search for warmer areas to lay their eggs and hibernate until spring. Although some pests will undoubtedly find their way into your home, many more will likely try to crawl under or burrow into the bark of your trees.
For example, webworms tend to form webs around the leaves and limbs of hickory, maple, and pecan trees in early autumn. And to build these webs, the fuzzy black caterpillars defoliate your tree in the process. Though healthy trees can survive some defoliation in fall, repeated infestation over the course of several years stresses and weakens the tree.
Although you can try to pull the webbing down yourself, a professional may have better success deterring the pests entirely via oils and insecticides.
6. Support Weakened Limbs
Pruning eliminates a lot of dead branches and unnecessary weight, but your tree may still cling to one or two essential branches that might need a little help over the winter. If left untended in cold, blustery weather, these branches may break or split your tree to its core.
As cabling often requires specialized tools and equipment, talk to a professional about inspecting and reinforcing branches on your tree. Oftentimes you can request cabling alongside additional services such as pruning or pest control.
Need Additional Help Maintaining Your Trees?
The above tips should definitely rank high on your to-do list this fall, but keep in mind that this blog isn’t comprehensive. If you want complete, thorough care for your trees, talk to an arborist about additional tasks to perform this fall.