Pruning trees is a no-no in the early fall. Remember, pruning is
a rejuvenation process. This means cutting limbs off sends a
hormone signal to the tree or shrub to grow more shoots. There
isn't a much worse time to prune than right before trees are
going dormant. Late fall, meaning after Thanksgiving, is usually
There are some other factors to consider in fall pruning
as well. Pruning oak trees before the end of October can lead to
oak wilt. The beetles that transmit the wilt are attracted to
the sap. We need to wait until there is no sap or no beetles.
December is a good time. Of course, you'll want to pick one of
the better December days to do your pruning chores. Really the
high-sap-flow trees are best done in December. This group would
include maples, sweet gums and elms.
Fertilizing is a great thing, as long as you don't get
carried away. Early September is really better to make use of
all the nutrients, but early October is better than not doing
it. Just watch the nitrogen. A lawn application rate to provide
no more than a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is the
norm. Providing this rate in the fall and spring (like May and
September) is about ideal for trees and lawns.
Also remember that vigorous growth by trees helps get away
from some of the problems, such as borers. It has actually been
found that trees in decline give off pheromones that attract
borers and other insects to "finish them off."
Water is really an important part of fall management,
especially for evergreens. As we have stretches of dry weather,
it is a good idea to water. This helps keep the moisture level
up in needles, and that is important to help prevent drying out
later on. Watering with an inch of water in one shot is the best
Remember, you can either add or conserve moisture. A mulch
layer of at least 2 inches can go a long way in conserving what
you or Mother Nature apply.
[to top of second column]
Most people have seen evergreens that dry out in late fall and
winter. They have really brown needles. The addition of water before
the ground freezes is important, but you may need to consider a wind
buffer or use of an anti-desiccant as well. One common name is Wilt-Pruf,
and these products lightly coat needles to slow down the
evaporation. There is nothing worse than an evergreen being short of
water, having the ground frozen and having drying winds as well.
"Fall is for planting." That's one of the slogans for the fall
tree planting campaign. Fall does work well, particularly for potted
stock. Make sure you follow the recommendations, such as for the
hole size. For freshly dug stock, about half the root system has
been removed in digging. This means you should probably prune off
about half the above-ground portion as well. Go ahead and do it.
This is the exception to the rule of no early fall pruning.
There are several questions about selecting trees. A tree
selecting assistant available from University of Illinois Extension
Good luck in all your fall tree endeavors.
University of Illinois Extension]