Nursery Notes: Fall weather offers perfect time to prepare for winter

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Evan Davies owns Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.

Evan Davies owns Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.

The fall in Creston finds a lot of gardeners enjoying the weather outside. It is my favourite time of year in the garden. Everywhere you look, different shades of leaf colour seemingly changing every day. While the seasonal weather patterns change a little every year, we can still make these basic assumptions.

It is very beneficial to water your trees and shrubs in for the winter. The reason we do this is that dry winter weather can cause plants’ cells to dry out and die. Especially at risk are evergreen trees and shrubs. If you have moved in off the Prairies, you may be familiar with this concept but those of you from the Coast aren’t used to gardening in a climate with dry fall weather. While outside enjoying the dry fall conditions, you can prune back most of your herbaceous perennials (plants that live from year to year but die to the ground every fall). It can be nice to leave some of the grasses, sedums and such alone for now if they add to your garden’s winter architecture by catching snow on them, etc.

I like to prune my roses back some in the fall if they have any height. This keeps the winter’s winds from blowing them around in the ground, and with a good mulch on the bed to protect them from the cold, they are sure to do better. I’ll reprune them correctly late next spring to encourage the right shape.

As leaves fall off trees they can be collected to make an amazing compost. Some diseased leaf items are better left out of the mix because unless you plan to monitor your compost pile for just the right temperatures, the fungi and bacteria will still be there next year.

As leaves fall off trees they reveal a leaf scar. It is an opening that can potentially allow some diseases to enter into your trees. Take, for instance, peach and nectarine trees, which can become infected with peach leaf curl over winter. To protect them, you should keep a thorough coverage of copper spray on them (also known as a Bordeaux mixture). Wait for the leaves to fall off before beginning your treatment if possible. Dry weather with no wind and above freezing temperatures is best; however, take what you can get.

There are other things one can accomplish if the weather is less favorable. Damp weather is best for fall applications of pre-emergent herbicides for those of you with an aversion to weeding by hand. These are agents that kill seeds as they start to grow. Corn gluten meal is one some folks use in their lawns for control of broadleaf weeds like dandelion.

Fall applications of fertilizers labelled “winterizer” or similar are recommended for the lawn in the fall, too. I would say the same would be good for your trees and shrubs. These fertilizers have more potassium in them than nitrogen, so they force your plants to stop growing. While the fall season marches on there is still a good window of opportunity to plant larger trees and shrubs. Smaller plants could be subject to frost heaves later in winter, but the bigger ones have enough substance they won’t readily be pushed out of the earth. At this time of year, you can water the transplants in and not have to worry about babysitting them for the next few months.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your autumn!

Evan Davies owns Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.