As Weather Cools Down Trees Still Need Proper Care

fall-leavesUp in the Midwest, most residents often identify the fall season with the changing colors of trees. It’s indeed a beautiful sight to see as trees change from green to various shades of red, yellow, amber and brown.

With all the natural beauty of the fall season, comes the responsibility of cleaning up fallen leaves, which can scatter great distances depending on the wind and weather conditions. As the leaves start to fall and trees become bare, most people assume that trees are shutting down and essentially going to sleep for the winter.

However, trees actually go through a time of growth and vigor during the fall and winter months. Interestingly, trees experience some of their most dramatic growth during the months of September through December as twigs, branches and roots begin collecting and storing the critical food reserves needed for the next season. Although trees may look bare and lifeless, there is still plenty of activity that occurs underneath the ground.

Therefore, the fall season can be a great time to give your trees some extra care in order to help prepare them for the harsh winter months. The brutal midwest winter can be hard on evergreens and deciduous plants. With often dramatic temperature fluctuations, water loss from the cold, drying winds and subzero temperatures, Chicago’s trees face a harsh environment every winter.

As a result, the food reserves stored during the fall season must be carefully conserved for the coming needs of spring, and to help in the regrowth process. So, what can you do to help care for your trees during the fall months to help set them up for health in the winter and growth in the spring? The Hebron Journal-Registerrecommends some Top Fall Tree Care Activities:

  • Identify. Make a list of your trees’ needs and potential health issues. This is a proactive way to approach plant health care before problems arise. It also helps prioritize your efforts.
  • Consult. Know and understand your limits with pruning and tree care. Consult with a certified arborist, such as Ken Brown of Brown Tree Service, who can identify and manage needs for large and mature trees.
  • Mulch. Spread a 4 to 6-inch layer of organic wood chip mulch around the base of trees. Take the mulch to the edge of the dripline on smaller trees or as far as you can for larger trees. A 6 to 8-foot mulched diameter is ideal for most trees. Do not pile mulch against the stem of the tree, which can cause long-term damage and even death.
  • Aerate. Aerate soils if they are compacted or poorly drained. Avoid getting too close to trees and damaging tree roots.
  • Remove. Correct or remove structural faults and any visible dead wood. Focus on making smaller cuts to minimize wounding and exposed heartwood.
  • Prune. Remove damaged and declining twigs and branches with a proper pruning cut to a healthy lateral branch.
  • Protect. Use paper tree wrap on young, recently planted trees that have not developed protective bark. Use tree tubes or tree guards to protect young trees from mechanical and animal damage. Winter damage from deer, rabbits and squirrels can be severe on young trees, so this protection can pay big dividends.
  • Water. Watering may be needed during a dry fall and winter, especially for newly planted or newly established trees.
  • Fertilize. Do not fertilize unless your soils have a known nutrient deficiency. Fertilizing trees unnecessarily can actually harm trees by promoting vegetative growth that attracts insects and by altering the normal growth of the tree canopy.
  • Plant. While fall is a great time to take care of existing trees, it is also a great time to plant new trees and prepare for future generations. Even after the first hard freeze, growing conditions are ideal for newly planted trees and excellent root growth. Trees planted in fall get a jump-start for spring regrowth.
  • Recycle. It’s disheartening to take a fall drive through the neighborhood and see house after house with bagged leaves at the curb ready for pickup. It’s like bagging up money and setting it curbside. Leaves and yard debris are excellent sources of nutrients and a necessary component for healthy, “living” soils. Recycle, reuse and repurpose by using this debris for mulching, double grinding with a mulching mower or filling up the compost pile.

Trees provide enormous social, economic and environmental benefits. For more questions about proper tree care during the fall season, contact the specialists at Brown Tree Service at 847-550-TREE (8733) or

Source: Hebron Journal-Register