Photo by Tony Atkin CC

It is that time of year when the morning chill is in the air, and the sense of the impending winter is quickly approaching. All that hard work and those beautiful plants will soon die out or go dormant for the winter. We become busy with a new routine that this time of year reverts out attention to. Our wardrobe, activities, and even our choices of foods tend to change in the fall of the year. With all of this new activity occurring around us, it is imperative that we not forget all of our hard work and expense on our plants. In the month of October, gardening for your trees and shrubs is imperative to ensure strong and healthy growth for next spring.

Depending on your climate for this time of the year will determine the steps that you need to take to protect your investment. Some areas are still experiencing the dog days of summer, whereas, others can feel the fall chill in the air. No matter what your climate is right now, special attention needs to be paid to your trees and shrubs. Also, now is a great time to plant new trees and shrubs. Plant at least 4 weeks prior to the top 8 to 10 inches of soil falling below 40 degrees. Deciduous trees are dormant in late fall which makes this a great time for planting. Planting now will allow their roots to become established because the upper part of tree doesn't require as much attention to receiving nutrients and water. You can also plant container or burlapped shrubs in the fall when they are dormant. Evergreens should have been planted in late summer, so hold off on doing this now.

If the climate in your area is hot, then this is the time to apply fertilizer to citrus trees and all of your shrubs. Be sure that you make any soil amendment that are necessary, and now is a great time to add some compost to your soil. You should apply 2-3 inches of mulch around newly planted trees and shrubs. Do not apply mulch up against the bark because this can encourage molds and funguses to breed there. Furthermore, do not place mulch over the root ball because research has shown that the roots tend to grow into the mulch and cause root girdling. Plants that are well established do not need mulching right now, because the extra warmth can encourage new growth. Many plant are trying to go into a state of dormancy, and new growth will only weaken them or cause them to die over the winter. You should also inspect leaves for spots and use necessary insecticides where needed. If your shrubs have root weevils then release parasitic nematodes under them at this time.Get rid of any existing weeds now, and you will be glad that you did come spring.

For climates that are still warm, plant woody ornamentals. Avoid pruning established plants right now. Pruning can create an environment for new growth, especially if it is still temperate in your region. Wait until early winter to begin this process after the plant goes dormant. Mulch around plants with organic debris that is easily found on the landscape. Fallen leaves and pine straw can be raked in a piles and distributed among your plants.

For colder climates, protection of plants is crucial. If there is only a mild chill in the air, you can continue planting new trees and shrubs. You should also stake these new plants and any young trees as high as possible to prevent wind damage. Remember to stake them loosely to promote wind movement which will force the tree to develop a sturdier trunk without snapping and breaking. You should also stake young and brittle plants in order to protect them from any snow damage. Any established plants that haven't receive mulch, then now is the time to do this. As the winter approaches you can then shape and prune your plants.