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 OK.
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 system.
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.
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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]