You probably have a mental checklist for your yard this fall that includes leaf removal, an extra layer of mulch, and a snow blower tune-up. When this list is complete, do you consider your yard properly winterized except for some minor holiday decorations? You may want to think beyond plans to set up a festive pumpkin and scarecrow display on your porch or fence line.

In reality, your yard needs a little more attention to better prepare your lawn, shrubs, and trees to survive a harsh winter and still bounce back green and beautiful in the spring. Consider the following three fall yard care mistakes you might be falling for.

1. You Postpone Pruning Until Spring

Pruning rids a tree of dead or diseased branches, helps control branch placement, and encourages new growth. Your trees need pruning after they drop their leaves every fall rather than just before the arrival of spring. Here’s why:

  • The absence of leaves in the fall allows a pruner to view a tree’s structure to better gauge where to make the most beneficial cuts.
  • Diseases from bacteria, fungi, insects, and parasites are more likely to be dead or dormant, which enables a pruner to halt or minimize their transmission.
  • Fall pruning better prepares your trees to withstand wind, snow, and ice that can cause damage to branches and tree crowns.

Keep in mind that some trees prefer a late winter prune rather than in the spring or fall. Fruit trees especially benefit because a late winter prune that encourages greater blossom growth.

2. You Believe Tree Fertilizer Is a Waste

Cooler days and nights signal the beginning of a period of dormancy for most trees, which swing their focus from the sun to the soil. When a tree is dormant, it stops photosynthesizing for energy and uses its roots to gather energy from the soil. Unfortunately, many homeowners think fertilizer application is a waste because a tree does not grow during dormancy.

In reality, a tree searches for nutrients in the soil not for growth but for energy it stores and then utilizes later when the weather warms up.  Trees may experience difficulty acquiring nutrients when homeowners remove a big source of nutrients — leaf litter. Also, lawns compete with trees for nutrients.

You can help add those nutrients to the soil via a deep root fertilizer. This type of fertilizer is not a granule or liquid you spread over the soil beneath a tree. Deep root fertilizer is applied at the root level to ensure the tree receives all of its nutrients. Experienced horticulturalists are better equipped to insert fertilizer at the root level the right way for your trees.

3. You Withhold Organic Top Dressing

Lawn soil that relies on fertilizer for nutrients often lacks organic matter. Over time, soil with little or no decayed plant material becomes compact and hard. Grass roots can suffocate. One way to add vital organic material back into lawn soil is with an organic top dressing. Organic top dressing is an application of a thin layer of organic matter directly onto grass which is gently raked in.

Fall is prime organic top dressing season for several practical reasons. Rain and snow common in the fall help the soil absorb the compost faster. Dressing in the fall speeds up the decomposition of thatch and dead roots that amass during the summer. Also, that compost feeds beneficial microbes as soon as early spring arrives.

Finally, top dressing in the spring invites lawn pests like grubs when beetles lay their eggs in moist compost. Ask an expert to apply an organic top dressing to your lawn in the fall after the last of the leaves are raked. Contact Schulhoff Tree & Lawn Care, Inc., for help today.