Hort Shorts: Getting your yard ready for fall

Hort Shorts are horticultural articles from the Newton Tree Board that encourage all citizens to learn, explore and enjoy the many benefits of trees. The articles focus on tree and plant care topics including cultivation, maintenance, and dealing with pests.

NEWTON, N.C. – Now that fall is almost officially here, preparations for seasonal change in your landscape should be started.Hort Shorts logo

With more than average 90-degree days and little rainfall, this summer has been particularly hard on trees, as well as landscapes in general. Now is the time to repair the damage from the drought.

The biggest problem for trees is that they are weakened by drought conditions, which can encourage insect pests to attack. Most of the time, insects attack trees that are stressed. Insects are less likely to attack a healthy, robust tree. If insect pests are present, they need to be addressed. Many insecticides on the market help with control. It should be noted that in order to effectively control any pest, the pest must first be identified. Once the pest is identified, read the label of the preferred product to ensure that it will be an effective control for your pest. Always read and follow label directions for any type of pesticide.

Drought can also lead to leaf scorch. Leaf scorch looks as if a lighter has been held up to the tip of a leaf and slightly singed the edge. Following the hot temperatures and low rainfall this year, it is likely that you will see the effects of leaf scorch next year as well, including smaller than normal buds when growth emerges in the spring.

The good news is that diseases are less likely to affect your trees and plants as the weather begins to cool because diseases thrive in warmer weather. Unfortunately, the cooler nights will also cause grubs to become more active and feed on the roots of the turf in your lawn. Now is a good time to consider application of grub control.

The recent return of rain has caused lawns to start turning green again. Your lawn should be looking good at this time of year, but if brown patches persist, your lawn has not yet recovered and proper maintenance and care should be utilized.

Here are a few ways to revive your landscape this fall:

» Water. Although recent rains saved some trees and shrubs from further drought damage, you should continue to water trees and lawns one to two inches weekly. Watering should be deep. Light, shallow watering encourages shallow root growth which makes plants more prone to drought stress.

» Fertilize. Fertilize now or in the spring to increase the vigor of your trees.

» Seed and sod. The recent rainfall benefits seeding and sodding practices and the appearance of your lawn at this time of year.

» Aerate. Fall is a great time of year to aerate your lawn. Aeration is beneficial because it reduces water runoff. Removing plugs from the soil makes room for air and water to enter the root system.

» Overseed.Overseeding is a good practice to help repair thin turf areas of your lawn. Follow label instructions for the type of seed that you use for overseeding.

Despite all the damage caused by high temperatures and drought, there is a benefit of sorts to the summer that we have experienced. Drought conditions tend to lead to a brilliant—albeit short—color show with the leaves in the fall. Before those vibrant leaves begin to blanket your landscape and hide any problems, spend some time this month inspecting your property and preparing it for another season. Refresh your landscape after the long, dry summer and enjoy your new haven.