September is here! Have you noticed? Maybe not around your yard so much, but definitely there are signs of fall all around us if you are observant. Noticed the pumpkins displayed in your local grocery store? Seen the apple cider jugs that have suddenly appeared? Take a walk down White Street. Notice the shop windows. Fall themes abound! Oh, this makes me so happy! Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year- hands down. The blessed relief from the heat of late summer is just around the corner and our lawns and gardens are no doubt looking a bit heat stressed and bedraggled. The good news is all this is temporary and a new cycle of planting and gardening will soon be upon us. Fall is an important time in the life of a gardener and being here in North Carolina, we have an extended gardening season to work with.
So what should we be focusing for fall? Well, one thing I’ve learned since purchasing a really old property with a number of 200 year old trees, is that trees and shrubs require a good bit of care- especially if they have been neglected for some time. Trees and shrubs are soon preparing for a winter’s rest, and now is the time to focus on what they need for next year. Fall is the time for fertilization. With cooler temperatures and regular rainfall, root development is usually vigorous at this time of year. As roots grow, they absorb nutrients which are stored until the spring arrives. Thus, the new leaves and twigs will have an abundant source of nutrients that can be used to produce the food that trees and shrubs need to survive and prosper.
One way to assess what your trees trees and shrubs need is to hire an arborist to assess your soil. Soil nutrient samples are recommended every 3 years or so to determine the condition of your soil so that you may know precisely what nutrients need to be supplied to your soil to help your trees and shrubs thrive. When we first moved into our home on East Juniper, we knew nothing about the many old trees on this property. Our first spring here, we contacted Bartlett Tree Services to come out and give us a free assessment and recommendations for our trees and shrubs. It was such a fun experience to walk around the property with the arborist and learn precisely what was here, what condition the trees were in, and to learn some basic things about tree care. We have extremely old azaleas all over this yard which need a lot of pruning and fertilizing. We learned that fall is one of the times to feed these azaleas! So now in early October, we watch the weather, pick a day when rainfall is predicted, and spread azalea fertilizer the day before it rains. The other tip we learned is that applying a layer of organic mulch over the root system of trees and shrubs in the fall is one of the best actions you can take to prepare them for winter. Mulch insulates the soil allowing for water and nutrient uptake. As it breaks down, mulch improves organic matter that encourages root growth. So- with a little effort put in now, your trees and flowering shrubs can be beautiful and vigorous come spring! Have any fall gardening tips of your own? Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and by all means-contribute your expertise! Happy fertilizing! 😊