Fall plant care is one of the best things you can do for your plants to get them ready for winter. This mild transitional period is a great time to tidy and trim, but it's not always easy to know what plants like fall pruning and which ones would rather be left alone. So, how do you know where to begin? That's what we're here for!
Why is Fall Ideal For Pruning in Iowa?
Fall pruning is so good for your plants because of the cooler temperatures and reduced plant growth. Trimming during this time promotes plant health by removing dead or diseased branches, encourages a strong structure, and minimizes the risk of pests and diseases, setting the stage for a vibrant spring garden.
Is October Too Late to Prune?
So, what's the cut-off period for fall pruning? It depends on what you're pruning! For most deciduous trees and shrubs, early to mid-October is still acceptable, but for evergreens, it's best to wrap up pruning by late September to avoid winter damage. Remember that pruning too late in the fall can stimulate new growth, which won't have time to harden off before winter's arrival, so aim to finish your pruning tasks well before the first hard frost.
When in the Fall Should You Trim Bushes?
If your bushes are looking a little overgrown or leggy right now, it's probably time to give them a trim. Ideally, you should start trimming your bushes in late September or early October, which allows your plants to recover from the pruning stress before the harsh winter arrives. Don't rush into it, of course, and keep an eye on the weather. If you see an unseasonably warm spell, it's a great time to tackle your bushes before the frost sets in.
How Do You Prune Shrubs in the Fall?
Before you start chopping away at your shrubs all willy-nilly, remember that fall pruning should be more about tidying up and maintaining their shape rather than heavy-handed cutting. Here's a simple guide to help you undertake your fall pruning the right way:
Remove Dead or Diseased Branches: Start by identifying and removing any dead or diseased branches, as this helps prevent the spread of disease and improves the overall health of your plants.
Thin Out Overcrowded Growth: Take a step back and assess the shape of your shrub. Are there branches crossing over each other or crowding the center? If so, carefully trim away the excess growth to improve air circulation.
Maintain Your Desired Shape: Lightly trim the outermost branches of your shrubs to maintain the shape you want. Be cautious not to cut too much, as this can stimulate new growth that won't have time to harden off before winter.
Mulch and Feed: After pruning, add a layer of top-quality mulch around the base of your bushes to insulate their roots and help protect them during the cold winter months. Consider also spreading some balanced fertilizer to ensure your plants have the nutrients they need to survive the winter.
How Should You Trim Your Trees in the Fall?
Fall is a great time to prune your trees, but it's crucial to get it right. Here's another quick guide to get you going:
Dead, Diseased, or Damaged Branches: Just as with bushes, start by identifying and removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches to help maintain the overall health of your trees.
Structural Pruning: If your tree has any structural issues, such as crossing branches or limbs that pose a threat to property or passersby, fall is an excellent time to address them. Correcting these issues can help prevent future damage during winter storms.
Leave Major Pruning for the Winter: It's best to avoid any major tree pruning in the fall, especially in Iowa, since our winters can be so harsh. Save major pruning tasks for late winter or early spring when the tree is still dormant.
Perennial Fall Care Guide
Now that we've covered bushes and trees, let's look at how to care for your gorgeous fall perennials. Here are a few general and Iowa-specific tips to help you prepare your gorgeous blooms for winter:
Deadheading and Cleanup: Start by deadheading spent flowers and removing any yellowing or brown leaves. To keep your garden looking tidy and prevent any diseases from spreading.
Cut Back Herbaceous Perennials: For herbaceous perennials (those that die back to the ground in winter), trim them back to a few inches above the soil line once they've finished flowering to encourage new growth in the spring.
Leave Some Seedheads: Keep a few seedheads intact to provide food for birds during the winter months and add interest to your winter garden.
Mulch and Protect: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of your perennials to insulate the soil and protect their roots, which is especially important for newly planted perennials.
Prep for Frost: Keep an eye on the weather forecast. When frost is imminent, cover your more delicate perennials with frost cloth or blankets to protect them from the cold.
Divide and Transplant: Fall is an excellent time to divide and transplant many of your favorite perennials, allowing you to rejuvenate overcrowded plants and even share the beauty of your garden with others! Bearded irises, daylilies, hostas, and peonies are just a few examples.
Consider Native Plants: Native perennials are well adapted to the Iowa climate and require less maintenance. Consider adding some native species to your garden to enhance its resilience.
No matter what fall pruning and cleanup chores you've got going this season, come see us today at Wallace's Garden Center for everything you need to get your garden ready for the winter ahead!