Tree Tips for Mid-Fall

Nebraskans, Kansans, Missourians and Iowans place a lot of value on their trees.  They provide numerous benefits including shade, wind reduction, cooling, vandalism reduction, wildlife/songbird habitat, color in all seasons and carbon sequestration from the atmosphere.

In order to keep them thriving in the landscape, at least 5 management practices should be conducted at this time of year. 

  1. Inspection.  This is a great time of year for a thorough assessment, especially for deciduous trees after the leaves have dropped.  When trees lack leaves, it’s relatively easy to see defects such as co-dominant leaders, cracks, closely parallel limbs and included bark.  If you see something suspicious, contact an ISA Certified Arborist for closer inspection.
  • Water.  Especially for new plantings, it’s important for tree roots to enter the winter moist, not soggy or dry.  Check for soil moisture with a screwdriver or piece of ree-bar.  If the probe is powdery after you pull it out, water slowly and gradually for an hour, then check again.  Remember – the roots are under the tree canopy and at least that far outside of the canopy as well.
  • Mulch. After the soil has been moistened, apply 2 inches of wood chip or pine needle mulch over the roots under the tree canopy.  Be sure to pull it back from the trunk to reduce the chances of rodent damage over the winter.
  • Install protective devices.  For new trees, install chicken wire, hardware cloth or pvc collars to prevent squirrels, rabbits and voles from chewing on the bark and conductive vessels.
  • Delay Pruning.  If problematic branches were noticed in the inspection in #1 above, mark them with paint and hire an ISA certified arborist to remove them in April-June 2022.  Sure, if there is a hanging/dangling limb, much of it should be removed now to prevent falling on a valued target, then the final cut against the tree trunk removed in spring.
  • (Bonus Management Step). Plan pest control for spring 2022.  Schedule applications for diseases and insects such as apple scab, diplodia tip blight and scale to keep trees healthy.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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