As fall begins to transition to winter, it is important that landscapes are adequately prepared for the coming season. Winter can take a harsh toll on plants and soils not adequately prepared for the climate extremes present during the season, and prevention of winter damage begins with a proper fall cleaning of the landscape. The following suggestions provide a brief overview of the annual tasks that fall requires of homeowners.
1. Leaf removal is an essential undertaking for any owner of a recently aerated and seeded lawn. As leaves fall onto the grass, they prevent newly germinated grass seed from receiving adequate sunlight. Shading will cause new grass to die if leaves are not removed in a timely fashion.
2. Irrigation systems in Virginia should be winterized in the fall as winter ground temperatures often reach below the freezing point. The winterization of an irrigation system includes the removal of water from the pipes and other components so that water cannot freeze in the system and damage any mechanisms. This service should be performed in mid- to late- fall so as to avoid early winter damage.
3. Pruning should be a part of any fall landscaping agenda. The benefits of a pruning program include training of a tree or shrub’s form, improvement of flowering and fruiting, restriction of growth, and maintenance of plant health. Training a tree can prevent storm damage and diseases that occur in weak branch angles. Pruning out old wood can influence plants to flower more profusely due to the availability of excess energy. Eliminating excess plant material can help to maintain a controlled plant size. Additionally, removing diseased plant material can prevent the spread of the pathogen throughout the tree.
Though it is possible to prune your plants year- round, late autumn through winter is a good time to prune trees and shrubs as the new growth of spring and summer has had ample time to acclimatize. Additionally, the food storage that was used in the growth of spring and summer shoots has been replenished through carbohydrate storing.
4. In addition to pruning trees and shrubs, it is important to mulch their roots. Mulch is a natural insulator, keeping soil warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Warmer soil temperatures allow for increased root growth, which helps the plant to be better prepared for spring and summer growth. Mulch also decreases the amount of soil moisture that is lost to evaporation, providing trees, shrubs, and flowers with more moisture than bare soil. Additionally, mulch minimizes weed competition for a plant; it is more difficult for weed seeds to germinate when covered by mulch. Reducing weed competition improves the water source for the desired plant. As organic mulch decomposes, it provides the underlying soil with nutrients and improves the aggregation of the soil’s structure. Improved aggregation allows for more efficient air and water movement throughout the soil, which in turn improves the efficiency of the plants’ biotic processes.
The ideal mulch application consists of an even coverage of 2 to 4 inches of mulch over the soil surface. Less than 2 inches of mulch can make the application ineffective while more than 4 inches of mulch around the trunks of trees and shrubs can actually cause damage by making the plant more susceptible to cankering and disease.
5. Fall is also an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. Though the air is cooler, the soil retains the heat from summer’s sunshine. Cool air temperature prevents vegetative growth on the above-ground portions of the plant while warm soil temperature allows for the establishment of the plant’s root system. This allows the plant to prepare its root system to support the impending growth flush of spring and summer, which improves the plant’s ability to withstand drought and heat.
6. In addition to trees and shrubs, fall annuals can add interest to a winter landscape; without the leaves of deciduous species, winter landscapes tend to look barren and dull. Pansies can perk up a landscape by adding pockets of color in beds and under trees.
As November winds to a close, homeowners should plan to tend to their landscapes before the onset of winter. Preparing a landscape for cold weather can be a sizeable task; whether hiring a professional to help or performing the work personally, every homeowner should begin delineating a plan of action. A properly maintained winter landscape yields faster and more satisfying results as soon as the weather warms in the spring.
For all you Richmond homeowners in need of some fall clean up assistance, call Robbins Landscaping, Inc. at (804)748-3978!
Robbins Landscaping, Inc.