The best friend on earth of man is the tree: when we use the tree respectfully and economically we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.
Preparing Your Fall Landscaping for Winter
A Wyoming fall is spectacular!
The intense heat is gone. Warm, dry days are followed by cool nights. And the rich autumn colors are a delight. But there is still much to do in order to prepare your fall landscaping for the winter and next year’s growing season.
Trees and Shrubs
Early fall is the time to fence sapling-size trees and shrubs to protect them from wildlife, particularly male deer.
This is when bucks begin rubbing their antlers to remove velvet and to mark territories for breeding season. They can decimate a young tree in a few short minutes, and newly planted trees are prime candidates.
Here’s how to create the fencing:
- Install three to four metal posts around the tree, equally spaced about three feet apart.
- Wrap poly snow fence, burlap, landscape fabric or any other strong, lightweight barrier around the posts to form an enclosure.
- Leave the enclosure up until April.
Alternatively, you can use welded-wire fencing, as shown in the following video clip:
A Word about Watering
Autumn and winter watering is critical for any trees and shrubs that were planted within the last three years. Water twice a month throughout autumn, and once a month in winter if they are exposed and have no snow cover.
Be sure to provide a good soaking of water to the root zone. In the fall, trees and shrubs are actively building their root mass. A deep soaking will ensure healthy root development.
Love Your Lawn
Like trees and shrubs, your lawn actively builds its root mass in autumn in preparation for winter. Which is why it’s best to water your lawn twice a month throughout the fall.
Try to water deeply and in the early morning. If water runs off the surface, you’ve irrigated too much.
Fertilizer application is also important this time of year — but not for the reason you might think. It doesn’t stimulate growth in the grass leaf blades, but it does stimulate the roots to grow. This will ensure stronger plants next spring.
Please note that autumn fertilizer applications are not recommended for trees. So if your lawn an trees grow together, you may wish to apply half the lawn fertilizer’s recommended rate as part of your fall landscaping regimen.
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The Final Cut
For your final lawn mowing of the season, adjust the cutting height to three inches or higher. Studies have shown a direct correlation between the height of the grass leaf blade and the amount of roots developed. The taller the grass, the bigger (and deeper) the root mass.
Use a mulching blade, and let the clippings stay in the yard instead of bagging.
Perennials and Ornamental Grasses
Some of the easiest fall landscaping chores are in the flowerbeds.
If your perennials have showy seed heads, leave then intact for winter interest as well as important bird food. And don’t be in a hurry to clip everything back to ground level!
Why? Because pruning stimulates new growth, and all plants want to go to sleep for the winter.
Also, Wyoming winter is bitter cold; the tender new growth will freeze, killing it (and perhaps the entire plant, as well). Save the heavy pruning for spring!
Flowerbeds should be watered just like a lawn. They too are developing a robust root mass. But fertilization is generally not recommended. Wise Wyoming gardeners often use fallen tree leaves as a mulch for their flowerbeds to insulate the soil against the harsh winter. (This can be removed in April or May.)
Ornamental grasses should not be cut back. They serve as a structural element when all other plants are left hardly noticeable. The grasses can be cut back to three or four inches above ground in early March, depending on your elevation.
A Time to Plant…
It may seem contradictory to plant in the fall, just as the growing season comes to a close. But almost all deciduous trees and shrubs can be safely planted from early autumn through early winter.
Because the plants are literally “going to bed” in their new homes, most of them to remarkably well. In addition, limited stress is placed on them this time of year.
Remember to water and protect these new plantings from undesirable wildlife species! When spring arrives, they’ll awaken to their new environment.
With regard to lawn seeding, cool-season varieties (such as Kentucky bluegrass and some fescue) can be seeded up to mid-September in most parts of Wyoming. This grass usually gets well established prior to winter and is ready to go next spring. If considering sod, mid-October would be a good cut-off point.
Don’t Forget the Bulbs!
And don’t forget about planting spring-flowering bulbs! Tulips, jonquils, daffodils, and snowdrops — all of these do extraordinarily well in Wyoming, and should play a part in your fall landscaping regimen.
Performing these fall landscaping chores will not only prepare your landscape for winter, but will help ensure a healthy new beginning come spring.
Univ. of Wyoming Sheridan Research & Extension Center