When it comes to organic landscaping, your priorities must shift in the fall. Instead of focusing on helping your plants grow, fall work is aimed toward getting your landscape cleaned up and ready for the winter shut down.
To help you cover your bases, we’ve put together a list of the top four landscape practices to remember in the fall so your landscape is ready to go come spring.
1.Clear away the debris
Exceptionally rainy and humid Iowa summers lead to an abundance of foliar diseases. After particularly wet and humid summers, it’s important to reduce the potential for diseases and infections in the years to come. To prevent fungal or bacterial spores from re-infecting trees, shrubs, or plants in the spring, you should do the following:
- Rake all leaves
- Cut down infected stems on your perennials
- Prune out disease infected branches and stems of trees and shrubs
- Examine for evidence of insects and borers
- Remove branches infested by insects
Fall is the perfect time to do some much-needed pruning. Instead of shaping your trees and shrubs, the focus this time, however, is to remove all dead, damaged, and diseased branches. You should also eliminate any limbs that may be causing structural issues such as the following:
- Branches that are rubbing
- Branches growing back in the center of the tree
- Branches with abnormally narrow crotch angles
Shift your thinking from growth-stimulating pruning to pruning that encourages dormancy.
3.Manage nutrients and water
Research has shown that nutrients that support growth in woody plants are the ones that are taken up during the previous year and stored in the wintertime. This means that fall is the best time to apply fertilizer to the woody plants in your organic landscape.
The goal with fall fertilizer application is not to support plant growth but to increase the winter hardiness of your trees and shrubs.
To give your organic landscape a boost, place worm castings around your woody plants. Castings are rich in biological organisms including:
- Beneficial bacteria
- Plant growth regulators
- Trace elements
Keep in mind that water is essential in helping your plants survive the winter. Woody plants need ample moisture levels in their soil. Sometimes water needs to be applied to prevent excess stress on plants. Test your soil to see how dry it is in the late summer and early fall. Apply water once a week before the snow falls to achieve optimal hydration levels.
Does the mulch around your plants look a little sparse? Apply organic mulches such as:
- Bark nuggets
- Pine needles
- Composted wood chips
Organic mulches such as these will help establish a soil profile similar to those found in the natural habitats of woody plants. Mulch will also protect your soil from extreme temperatures and help it maintain its moisture level.
Is your soil a little dull? Add additional nutrient sources for a diverse community of microorganisms. These microbes will help your trees and shrubs by giving them ample access to phosphorus, beneficial fungi, and other mineral nutrients.
Following these fall tips will help your organic landscape do dormant for the winter months, while remaining healthy, well-fed, and happy.