Don’t be shocked if your evergreen trees start shedding their inner needles before winter. It’s a lot like deciduous trees losing their leaves in the fall. (Photo by Linda Corwine)

Even though fall is upon us, there’s still a lot of growing to do. Just in case you’re wondering, our average frost date for the Montrose area is around October 7, so don’t stop gardening quite yet.

This is a fantastic time of year to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and spring blooming bulbs! I know, we usually think spring is the time to plant most things, but late summer and early fall shouldn’t be overlooked as a great time plant.

You may not give it much thought but the soil is warmer than it is in the spring and the air is cooler which is great for helping plants establish.

In fact, fall planting actually gives your new plants time to overcome transplant shock without the added demands of producing leaves and flowers.

Plants can actually establish a bit more easily than they would in the spring and they will hit the ground running when spring rolls around.

That is, if you provide the needed extra moisture throughout the winter months. Because our winters have the nasty habit of becoming dry these days, watering them every month or so is important!

September or early October is a great time to plant spring flowering bulbs and garlic. You may want to add a little phosphorous or bone meal to the soil when you plant. Just don’t breathe the bone meal dust when you’re using it. Also note, bone meal might attract bears if they’re a problem in your area.

Garlic is sold in the spring, but it’s also sold in the fall and rightly so. You may be surprised to learn that fall is an excellent time to plant garlic for next year’s harvest! To plant it, separate the garlic cloves from the bulb and plant each little piece about 12 inches apart in loose soil with added organic matter. Garlic will do best if you plant it when soil temperatures are 40°F, but before the ground freezes.

Fall favorites like mums and asters are available everywhere in pots for seasonal decorating. You could enjoy them as an eye catching porch decoration, and as the season progresses and they stop blooming, you could plant them in your perennial flowerbed to be enjoyed for years to come.

Some plants however, need to slow down and get ready to go to bed for the winter. For example,

I always say roses are like a two year old and just don’t know when to slow down and go to bed.

Reducing the amount of water they receive in late summer and early fall will help them slow down and “harden off” for winter. Fruit trees, Austrian pines, globe willows, and grapes also need to have to have water withheld at this time of year to signal them to go dormant for the winter.

This is where it gets a little tricky. You want to reduce the amount of water that some plants receive but if they’re growing in the lawn, you don’t want to drought stress your grass.

In this case, try to water as infrequently as you can get away with. Just be sure to give everything one last good soaking before you stop watering for the season.

Plan to fertilize your lawn one last time before the irrigation is shut off for the winter. This will help ensure a healthier, greener, lush lawn next summer. One to two pounds of nitrogen to 1,000 square feet is recommended.

You may also want to consider core aerating the lawn if it has thatch or is compacted. However, don’t fertilize perennials, shrubs, trees, and roses at this time! The extra fertilizer that they get if they’re growing in the lawn is OK, but you don’t want to stimulate new growth in your plants right now by fertilizing them.

If your lilacs or other plants look like they’ve been dusted with a fine powder, your plant probably has powdery mildew, hence the name. Oftentimes, raking up the leaves in the fall will help to control the problem next year. However, if you have a severe problem, a fungicide may be needed.

You may find large spiders making webs in your landscape or the exterior of your house. I think some of these spiders and the webs that they make can be quite beautiful and unique if you take time to look closely.

I know you may not like spiders, but the only one that you really need to be cautious of is the black widow.

Fortunately, these spiders prefer cool, dark, undisturbed locations and not your garden. There are stories of Brown Recluse spiders, but I wouldn’t worry about them. We have very few, if any in the Montrose area.

I’ve been seeing katydids, praying mantids, and even a walking stick in local gardens. All of these are harmless to you and your plants. I think of them as the cool insects of the late season garden and hope you’ll enjoy watching them as much as I do.

You might notice evergreens are starting to shed their older inner needles. Don’t worry about this.

Pine trees will do this to a greater extent every three or four years. Spruce will lose their inner needles every five to eight years. They will all do this a bit more if they’re stressed.

It’s pretty common to see trees around town that are turning a fall color more on one side of the canopy than the other.

If you’re sure the tree has been receiving the proper amount of water on all sides of the tree, and it’s been watered to the drip line, the weather may be responsible for the anomaly.

If you remember, way back in October 2019 and again in October 2020 we had early fall freezes. Last October the temperature dropped more than 60 degrees from a warm day to freezing temperatures within a 24 hour period. The poor trees were caught a bit off guard.

Many trees and shrubs had leaves frozen right on them. I remember knocking the leaves off some of the fruit trees this spring so I could prune them. Oftentimes, the trees were more affected on one side than another. This is why we’re still seeing the bicolor appearance now.

Keeping your trees as healthy as possible is about all that can be done for the tree right now.

Do you remember the tops of the Austrian pine trees around town with dead tops this spring?

This was because of these weather events too. Most of these trees put on new growth and it's really not that noticeable anymore.

I hope you’ll also take time to slow down and smell the roses before they begin their long winter nap. Enjoy your late season garden!

Linda Corwine McIntosh, Master Gardener, ISA Certified Arborist & Licensed Commercial Pesticide Applicator

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