Fall is here, hip, hip hooray! Leaves are changing color and dropping from our trees; shrubs, and vines and cold nights are finishing off tender annual garden plants. For gardeners, that slows down our garden work, but there’s still more to do.
Fall and winter watering
While it’s true our plants, both deciduous and evergreen, are getting ready for their long winter nap, the roots of these plants will continue to grow. In some cases they do so significantly until our soil temperatures, not air temperatures, are closer to freezing, which is likely a couple months away. That means it is not the time to say goodbye to watering.
The beneficial increase in root mass we can achieve at this time of year helps plants overwinter and get off to a good start next spring. Of course, with our cooling air temperatures, plants aren’t transpiring and losing water as they were in the summer so irrigations can be spread farther apart. But we should continue to apply some water periodically until our soil temperatures really cool down. Also, here in the western U.S., to achieve the best plant health it’s recommended that landscapes be irrigated at least once a month, even in the winter, if there is no significant rain or snowfall.
Fall landscape evaluation
Fall is a great time to evaluate the landscape. Walk through your landscape and consider how well, or not, your trees and shrubs are doing to determine if any should be taken out due to damage, diseases or just poor growth. Now, while some plants just don’t perform well regardless of what you do, sometimes that poor performance is due to cultural issues such as poor initial planting, poor fertilization or poor irrigation. So make sure it’s the plant and not the cultural practices causing the poor growth.
The benefit of a fall evaluation is that you don’t have to keep caring for plants that aren’t doing well, and fall is a great time to plant new plants to take their place. From now into November consider planting trees, shrubs and perennials. For bulbs, you can go even further into the winter. Also, you should still be able to get good seed germination over the new few weeks if you need to renovate or start a new cool season lawn.
Fall fruit tree care
While it hasn’t been widespread I certainly have seen fruit trees damaged over the winter from small rodents such as mice and voles eating the bark on tree trunks. This has happened more often when there is snow around the bases of the trees but it could happen without that. As such keep the areas under fruit trees clear of plant material, to at least 3 feet around the trunk, to limit rodents having a safe place to feed on bark and roots. You can also put a physical barrier around the trunk and down into the soil
One of the bigger problems I regularly see with younger fruit trees or other thin barked trees is winter sunscald damage. During the winter the trunk bark heats up during the day and at night when temperatures plummet the living plant cells freeze and are damaged which leads to bark death and could lead to canker diseases and borers. To prevent this wrap the trunks of young trees with white tree wrap up to the first scaffold limbs but remove in the spring. With fruit trees you can paint the trunk from the base up to the first scaffold limbs with a 1 to 1 mixture of white interior latex paint to water.
I came across this project from the Food Allergy Research and Education group that is gaining interest with helping kids with food allergies to trick or treat safely. A participating home would paint a pumpkin teal colored, which would mean that home will be giving out non-food treats such as small toys to children, rather than candy. For more information and to download printable posters to help advertise this fact go to www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project.
Thought for the day: “Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.” —Hal Borland.
Previous articles are available at The Times-Independent website, www.moabtimes.com. Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at [email protected]
ByBy Michael Johnson
Utah State University Extension Agent, Grand County