Grass, plants, trees need attention before winter arrives

It's that time of year when all the plants, herbs and carefully placed flowers that flourish in summer come to the end of their prime. It's also time to consider what greenery can be saved during the coldweather months and how to prepare every ar...

 It’s that time of year when all the plants, herbs and carefully placed flowers that flourish in summer come to the end of their prime. It’s also time to consider what greenery can be saved during the coldweather months and how to prepare every area of the yard without causing harm. 

Overall landscape

   In general, “fall is a great time to plant new trees, shrubs and perennials,” says Superb Services landscape designer Jenny Breidenbach. “Temperatures are cooler, which (causes) less stress on the plants, and also (the need for) watering is less since things won’t dry out as fast.”

   But, fall is also a great time to plant bulbs for spring bloom, Breidenbach says. This includes crocus, daffodils and tulip bulbs.

   After planting bulbs, begin cleaning the yard by removing dried or damp foliage, sticks and branches, and fluff or replace mulch over soil. Use as much compost as possible to make room in the bin for additional compost creation and spread it over flower beds and at the base of trees and shrubs.


  Preparing the lawn

   In readying the lawn, it’s important to clean up leaves, which can become breeding grounds for disease, Breidenbach says. “Don’t worry about getting every last leaf out of planting beds,” she says. “As they break down, leaves can help insulate plants and provide them with valuable nutrients.”

   After clearing leaves from the yard, fertilize grass with slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. During the winter months, grass will store food in carbohydrates and create a lush, green spread in the spring.

   Andy Horge, operations manager of Lawn King in Grand Forks, recommends fertilizing in late October. “Our customers who have their lawn fertilized in the late fall are usually the first green yards on the block (in the spring).”

   Fall is the prime time to aerate a lawn, he says. Doing so will allow water, oxygen and nutrients into the Red River Valley’s dense soil and directly into the roots.

   Cutting the lawn slightly shorter in the fall will help prevent grass from becoming matted under the leaves and snow, but avoid cutting grass too short. This should be done before the beginning of November.


   Plants that are not intended to last longer than a year are considered annuals. But some horticulturists suggest, with close attention and care, these plants can be grown indoors from a clipping and placed outdoors again in spring. By taking a cutting of the plant and placing it in potting mix, stripping it of leaves, keeping it moist and in direct sunlight, the plant should develop a mass of roots that can be placed in a pot and grown as a houseplant until spring.


   It should be noted, however, that not all annuals are easily manipulated in this way, but it might be worth trying, especially for beloved florals. This process should begin several weeks before the first frost for a strong clipping.

   Some variations of annuals can be left untouched to seed near the end of the summer season for a chance of revival the following spring. Horticulturists recommend allowing some of these plants to shrivel and seed before mulching or covering the ground underneath in September.


   Leaving this type of plant, such as mums, to seed and overwinter is a fine option in many cases. For other variations, trimming is important for the growth and protection of plants, which Horge recommends cutting before the beginning of November. But cutting plants too short can lead to winter injury, because the buds for next year’s growth would be at the surface or higher, not below the soil line as they should be.

   “If time doesn’t allow, leave the foliage on the perennial plants until spring and that will act as insulation for the plant,” Breidenbach says, adding that remaining foliage will act as a barrier of insulation for the plant. She also recommends leaving ornamental grasses for visual interest throughout the fall and winter months to add interest to the landscape.

   Transplanting to containers from the soil is another option for these plants. Removing them from their pots, trimming their roots and stimulating new growth before placing into the ground will help the process.


   Harvesting and drying ready herbs or moving them indoors are options for keeping them alive beyond summer, but their need for plenty of natural or fluorescent light should be considered. Succulents and cacti also require the same attention.


   In our area, a killing frost occurs sometime in late September or early October. At that time, it is important to clean plant debris to minimize soilborne diseases.

   Just as with particular annuals, herbs might have the chance to survive another year with care and protection from winter weather. Greens and lettuce, dill and cilantro are willing self-sowers, horticulturists say, and can sometimes be willing to come back when allowed to seed and given proper coverage from snow and cold temperatures.

  Trees and shrubs

   During dry spells, it’s important to water - but not overwater - plants and trees, as they make small growing strides.

   “Remember to water before the ground freezes up,” Breidenbach says. “Soak these plants and water deep. The plants will absorb the water and that will help prevent the branches from browning out.”

   She notes it is important to pay particular attention to evergreen shrubs, junipers and arborvitaes when watering, as they are more susceptible to the harsh elements during winter.

   Young trees might need protection from the harsh winds and temperatures and strong sunshine during the day. It’s important to wrap the tree bark to avoid possible issues with the trees at this point in their life.

   For additional information on how to prepare your yard this fall, contact Superb Services at 701-757-2115 or Lawn King at 701-741-5464.

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