By Paul Donovan | October 12, 2022 0

Donovan Arborist Fall Tree Care

Donovan Arborist Fall Tree Care


Summer draws to a close as warm temperatures give way to cooler weather.

As the trees signal the change with some striking foliage transformations from greens to rich rusts, ruby reds, glittering golds, and everything in between.

Autumn may be a sign that winter is near, but it’s not a time to stop thinking about your trees. This is actually a great time to prepare your trees for winter and the following spring. Taking advantage of these cooler days to give your trees some TLC can help protect them during winter and give them an optimum growing environment for the next growing season.

Follow our Donovan Arborists fall tree care checklist to ensure your trees are ready to weather any season and continue growing strong.

Soil Care

When trees grow in the forest, the soil beneath them is rich. This is from the fallen leaves and organic matter that is present on the forest floor providing those trees with nutrients.

In your home landscape, however, this isn’t the case. There are three specific things you can do to enhance the soil and make it more like the forest floor so your trees can flourish.

Fall Fertilization

To ensure trees receive nutrients that were lost, apply a slow-release fertilizer in fall. Slow-release fertilizers mimic nature by slowly and steadily providing nutrients to your tree throughout the following seasons. Having consistent access to nutrients helps trees to grow new leaves, roots and wood as the seasons progress.

Freshen Up the Mulch

High-quality, organic mulch does quite a bit to help your tree thrive.

It helps add organic matter to the soil around the tree, conserve soil moisture, maintain soil temperatures, and gives soil resilience against erosion and compaction.

Organic mulch can be made of ground-up leaves, weed-free straw, or wood chips.

Make sure to do any fall mulching before the ground freezes. Ideally, mulch over fallen leaves instead of removing them.

Clean Up

The next important fall tree care step is the cleanup phase. You want to deal with leaves and branches in the right way to ensure you’re helping your tree get ready for winter.

Remove Leaf Piles from Beds and Turf

Those autumn leaves are so gorgeous during the season. But, eventually, they do fall.

Raking them up is key to keeping your grass healthy and avoiding snow mold development. To make fallen leaves easier to transport, rake them onto a plastic tarp before moving them.

Add leaf matter from the ground and from gutters, as well as lawn clippings, to a compost bin. Flip the leaf pile every month with a garden fork to aerate it. The bonus: You can use this as mulch or compost to provide trees and shrubs with good organic matter next year.

Tree Trimming

Trunk Wrap Younger trees for winter related damage.

Tree pruning is an essential annual practice. You want to prune dead, diseased, or unsafe branches from your trees not only to protect you, your home, and your belongings, but also to influence the structure and shape of the tree in the future.

  • Trim lifeless branches so they don’t succumb to winter snow and winds.
  • Cut cracked, loose, diseased-looking limbs close to the trunk without leaving a stub. Leave wounds exposed to heal.
  • If tree branches look too large for you to handle, call Donovan Arborist for professional, safe help or book online


Winter is coming; it’s inevitable. Preparing your tree for the coming snow, frost, ice, and cold temperatures is a great step to ensure they can get through the season unscathed.

Support Weak Limbs with Cable or Brace

If there are some large, weaker limbs on your trees, they may need a little extra help to survive severe winter weather conditions.

One proactive approach is cabling, or cabling and bracing trees. This technique can support poor or weak branch unions and overextended limbs on your larger, most loved trees. It also reduces strain and stress damage that can result from high winds and heavy ice and snow buildup.

Water Your Evergreens

Fall is the season to give your trees a hearty gulp of water before winter arrives, so they are well-hydrated throughout the freezing winter.

Harsh winter weather can especially cause water loss in the needles of your evergreens while the roots are frozen.

To create an adequate water supply in the soil, your tree needs a good amount of hydration leading up to winter. Water your evergreen tree frequently throughout fall -- enough to keep the soil consistently moist but not saturated. Water regularly until the ground freezes. To efficiently get your tree the right amount of water, weekly deep root watering with slow soaking is the best strategy.

Inspect Trees and Shrubs

While you’re minding your trees, this is always a good time to be on the lookout for pests and diseases so they don’t settle in and get out of control. Always consult a certified arborist who can correctly diagnose issues and prescribe treatments. If you’re seeing conspicuous damage, early fall color, or other signs of stress, these could be signs of a potential underlying problem.

In addition to pruning-out or supporting concerning limbs, fall is a good time to have trees inspected for overall safety. A certified arborist can assess the risk of tree failure at the base or root system. Professional inspection is particularly important if any construction or grading has occurred near a tree.

Tree and Shrub Insect and Disease Damage

Looking for signs of insect and disease damage can be tough to do on your own.

First, you have to identify the tree pest or disease, which can be tough since they can look similar depending on their stage of development. Second, you have to know how to treat that specific pest or disease at the right time for the best control and to avoid wasting time or money.

A local arborist can provide this trained eye to let you know if you have a pest or disease problem, what it is, and how you can best eliminate it.

Potential Tree Safety Hazards

Your trees are assets on your property. But they can quickly move to liabilities if they aren’t well cared for.

Fall is a great time to keep an eye on any potential safety hazards your trees may present. Do you see broken limbs or dead limbs? Does your tree look like it may provide a structural or safety concern?

Some problems just need a quick fix. Just as you wouldn't get rid of a new car if it only had a flat tire, you can easily prune a dead branch and maintain a tree’s safety integrity.

A professionally trained arborist can inspect the tree and share results with you to help you determine an acceptable risk level. You can weigh the tree’s value against its issues and make a decision on next steps that’s comfortable for you.

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