Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist
We’re beginning the fall season and the landscape has started to transition today on Southern Gardening.
Day lengths are decreasing and very soon night time temperatures will be also. These are important and powerful environmental cues for landscape plants.
Trees, shrubs and flowering perennials are storing vast amounts of sugars in their root systems to fuel growth next spring. A good example of this strategy is when we see the leaves of trees change color.
Plants and trees are harvesting valuable nutrients from their leaves for use next year and will discard only the parts of leaves that cannot be used again. Who says people are the only ones that can recycle.
Maintaining good plant nutrition is important for winter survivability. Now is a good time to have your soil tested. Soil test kits are available at your county Extension office.
When you have your soil test results back you will have the proper recommendations. In the past it was recommended not to use high nitrogen fertilizers going into winter as this may encourage new growth and have cold weather damage the plant.
Current research suggests that using fall fertilizers having higher potassium are actually more beneficial than worrying about the nitrogen levels. This makes sense when we consider the plants response to the environment. Applying high level of nitrogen will not overcome the environmental signals of decreasing temperature and day length.
Maintaining good soil moisture is also essential moving into the winter months. Trees and shrubs can actually desiccate during the winter if the soil is allowed to dry out. When this happens the damage usually doesn’t appear until late the next year or beyond.
I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.