Trees and Shrubs
Cooler temperatures are perfect for planting or trans-planting large specimens because roots settle in without getting parched. Fall is also an ideal time for pruning some of the trees and shrubs in your yard.

PLANT AND TRANSPLANT: "Like grass, most trees and shrubs stop producing leaves by the end of summer and instead direct their energy toward developing roots," says Roger. So specimens planted in the fall begin establishing themselves as soon as they"re in the ground. Plus, autumn"s moderate temperatures and moisture levels won"t harm roots temporarily residing in burlap or plastic pots. Complete all planting, particularly where the snow flies, by the middle of October. Later in the fall, you can protect new evergreen plantings from their first dry, cold season by coating the leaves with an anti-desiccant spray, a waxy coating that limits evaporation and locks in moisture. (Such sprays can be harmful to some plants, including arborvitae and blue spruce; check the product label for a list of recommended applications.) If wind or heavy snow is a problem, wrap small trees and shrubs in several layers of burlap or shelter them under a simple plywood lean-to.

PRUNE: Autumn is a good time to prune deciduous trees because you can see the limb structure clearly once the leaves are gone. Concentrate on removing crossing or rubbing branches and suckers, which rob healthy limbs of nutrients, and dead branches, which increase the risk of wind damage. (If you have a hard time spotting dead branches when everything is bare, lightly scratch them to see if they are green.) Some trees, such as maples and birches, have sap that bleeds heavily in the spring, so pruning them in the fall is both healthier for the tree and neater for your tools. You can also safely prune summer-flowering shrubs like rose-of-Sharon, mimosa, and summersweet because they don"t form next season"s buds until the following spring.

FEED AND WATER: Unlike lawn food, tree and shrub fertilizer needs time to break down before it can be completely absorbed. "You want a balanced slow-release fertilizer that feeds the roots throughout the fall and is still around to fuel the stems and leaves next spring," says Roger. (The exact fertilizer ratio depends on where you live and whether the specimens are deciduous or evergreen; ask your local nursery or gardening club for recommendations.) To help fertilizer reach the roots of large trees, Roger uses a crowbar to punch a 12 to 16-inch-deep hole every 2 to 3 feet outside the tree"s drip line — the outer edge of the canopy, which mirrors the circumference of the roots. Follow the formula printed on the bag to determine the appropriate amount of fertilizer, then mix the food with a few shovelfuls of sand or pea gravel and use the mixture to fill the holes. In late fall, after the leaves have all fallen, top dress around trees and shrubs with more fertilizer, and water thoroughly; this will help sustain them through the winter. When you"re finished, remember to drain the hose, bring it inside, and pack it away.
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