Fall Shrub Care
By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
It’s that time of year when we must start looking ahead and planning for the upcoming winter. The shrubs in our landscape will benefit greatly from a little bit of tender loving care this fall. Shrubs going into the winter that are hungry (lacking fertilizer) have a much greater chance of winter injury and poor growth the following spring if we don’t give them some attention now.
Azaleas which are rapidly turning yellow or the older leaves are yellowing and falling off indicate a lack of nitrogen going into winter. The leaves on the red flowered selections often turn reddish-brown before the leaves fall off. Late summer and early fall is the ideal time to prevent this yellowing from occurring. If you’re seeing these symptoms now, it’s not too late to take corrective measures. Taking a soil sample and following the recommendations is best, but if you feel you don’t have time to take a soil test, apply a balanced slow release fertilizer that contains a small amount of nitrogen.
A little light pruning in the fall can also do miracles in shaping up shrubs for the winter season. Evergreen hollies and magnolias can be saved until you want to cut foliage for winter decorations. Light pruning in the fall is used to remove long branches and any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Remove those branches that interfere with the driveway, mowing the lawn or the walkway. The pruning cuts should be made back into the interior of the plant at a point where the branch is attached to a larger stem. Sheering evergreens in fall is not recommended since they will produce another flush of growth that is too tender to survive the winter. Too much pruning in the fall makes plants much more susceptible to winter damage and death. Also, pruning in the fall will remove flowers from next year’s spring blooming shrubs so fall pruning should be done lightly and only to shape the plants and remove dead and diseased limbs.
If you have time to take a soil sample, its $9 a bag and one sample covers about 15 acres. We have the bags and testing instructions in the office but generally, just dig down about 3 or 4 inches in 6 different areas, mix it altogether in a small bucket, pour it in a pint size plastic baggie and bring it by the office. We can transfer it to the soil sample bag and send it to the soil, plant and water lab for testing at the University of Georgia. We collect soil samples all week and send them to Athens on Friday mornings. It takes about a week to get the results and recommendations.
For more information about fall pruning and soil testing, contact me at the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.
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