Autumn is the most important time in the gardening season, and next year's success depends upon what you do this fall.
In the fruit orchard, rake and remove any leaves and fruit that have fallen to the ground. Mummified fruit left unpicked in the tree must be removed and destroyed before spring.
Diseased leaves and fruit will harbor disease pathogens and insect pests throughout the winter. Early next spring, the warmer temperatures will resurrect the slumbering diseases and insects for yet another stab at the fruits in the home orchard.
Sanitation is essentialto any control program in the orchard, vegetable garden and landscape. When diseases or insects are allowed to winter over, it defeats the purpose of a suppression program and increases insect and disease pressure in the area.
Before putting those tools away this winter, clean up the crop residue to reduce future insect and disease problems.
Anther important fall chore is the fertilization of shrubs and trees. Nitrogen is essential for plant growth and acts as an anti-freezing agent in plant materials.
If a plant enters the winter months nutritionally starved, its chances for survival are greatly reduced. Fall fertilization ensures the plants are free of nutritional problems and helps them tolerate severe weather.
Moisture is also an important commodity when winterizing the home landscape. Broadleaf evergreens lose large amounts of water through their leaves during the winter.
Often, the frozen ground prohibits the plant from replacing moisture rapidly. The desiccated foliage and stems make the plant more susceptible to winter injury.
To combat this, water early in thefall and minimize plant stress before winter dormancy.
Anti-transpirants can be used to protect sensitive evergreens from road salt damage. But their success in protecting ornamental plants from winter injury is debatable.
Some authorities question such treatments because they are often shed and must be reapplied several times throughout the winter.
I recommend that anti-transpirants be used only whenroad salt has the potential to be a serious problem. Winter injury can be avoided by good cultural practices and common sense.
Fall fertilization and ample amounts of moisture are usually sufficient to protect most plants.
However, there is no substitute for proper plant and site selection. The wrong plant or the wrong site can spell disaster for a plant, regardless of the measures taken to protect it.
If you are going to plant a garden or sow a lawn next year, perhapsyou should have your soil tested this fall. For $40, the University of Maryland Extension Service will test the ph and nutrient levels ofyour soil.
Expert recommendations from your local county agricultural agent will be mailed to you with a copy of your test results.
If you have any questions, call Tom Ford at 848-5013 or 875-2801.