Secrets to Preparing Your Lawn, Shrubs, Trees, and Perennials for a Restorative Winter Sleep

Fall is not only a great time to plant new additions to your garden but also the perfect opportunity to give your existing plants the nourishment they need before they enter their winter slumber. However, it’s important to approach fall fertilizing with care. As the temperature drops, plants transition into dormancy and their growth slows down. By fertilizing correctly, you can ensure that they have a restful winter and emerge healthy and vibrant in the spring.

Before you begin, it’s advisable to reach out to your local cooperative extension. They can provide you with a soil test, which is crucial for understanding your plants’ nutritional requirements. Additionally, they can inform you of the first frost date in your area, as fertilizing should ideally be done before this occurs. These experts have in-depth knowledge of your local climate and can offer advice tailored to your specific location.

When it comes to fall fertilizing, we recommend opting for natural methods rather than synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers can have negative environmental impacts, such as water contamination and harm to soil microbes. Prioritizing the restoration of soil health using natural techniques should always be the first choice.

Now, let’s explore what you need to know about fall fertilizing:

For the Lawn

Leon's Lawn Care

The easiest and most effective way to fertilize your lawn is to use a mulching mower during your final mow of the season. By leaving the grass clippings on the lawn, you can provide up to 50% of the necessary nutrients for the grass. To supplement the grass’s needs, there are two environmentally-friendly methods you can employ. First, you can aerate the lawn and top dress it with compost. Second, if you have fallen leaves, you can mulch them into the lawn as well. Just make sure to distribute them evenly to avoid excessive thickness. Keeping the nutrients within your property is a smart approach.

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If you prefer using organic lawn fertilizer, be cautious not to overapply it. While organic fertilizers are better than their chemical counterparts, they still have manufacturing and transportation costs that impact the environment. Follow the instructions carefully and remember that more is not always better.

For Trees and Shrubs

Janet's Bird Haven Farm

The most natural and efficient way to fertilize trees and shrubs is to create a closed loop system. Instead of removing the leaves from the trees, let them fall and form a natural mulch layer. These fallen leaves provide essential nutrients to the trees and help retain soil moisture. They also create a favorable environment for beneficial microbes. However, avoid piling the leaves up against the trunk, as this can cause rotting. If you don’t have any trees on your property, organic compost is an excellent alternative.

For shrubs that have been healthy throughout the growing season, creating a leaf well around their base is sufficient. However, if they struggled during the summer, they may require extra support. Aerate the soil, add compost, and ensure they receive adequate watering.

If you decide to use store-bought organic fertilizer for your trees or shrubs, it’s advisable to consult with an arborist. They possess the expertise to prevent over-fertilization, which can harm your plants. When it comes to fertilizer application, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

For Perennials

Fall Dividing Perennials

Yes, leaves once again play a crucial role in fertilizing perennials. Both the leaves and compost decompose slowly, providing a steady release of nutrients. As winter approaches and plant growth ceases, the goal is for the nutrients to be readily available when the plants wake up in the spring. If you’re concerned about burying your plants too deep in leaves, lightly cover them while packing the leaves thickly around the base.

Further reading:  The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining a Beautiful Tall Fescue Lawn

Using synthetic fertilizer on perennials as they enter dormancy can trigger premature growth during unseasonably warm spells. Subsequently, when colder temperatures return, the new growth may be vulnerable and suffer damage. This can weaken the plants and hinder their ability to thrive in the following spring or even result in their demise.

Our gardens are intricate parts of a larger ecosystem, and therefore, it’s essential to prioritize soil health and embrace natural fertilizing methods. Aeration of compacted soil, addition of organic matter, and the use of leaves as mulch can have long-lasting positive effects on plant health.

Remember, preparing your garden for winter rest requires a thoughtful approach. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure that your lawn, shrubs, trees, and perennials have the best chance of rejuvenating and flourishing when spring arrives.

To explore further information on all aspects of gardening, you can visit the Ames Farm Center. They offer a wealth of resources and products to support your gardening journey.