By Ryan Harvey of Reno Green Landscaping

As we move into fall, cooler temperatures are headed our way. With that in mind, it is time for you and your landscape to adjust to the changes. There are many fall landscaping tasks we recommend performing to help your landscape transition from warmer to freezing temperatures.

Fall planting

Fall is one of the best times to plant because the temperatures drop a bit and new plantings are less likely to experience shock and heat stress symptoms. The soil is still warm, allowing roots to grow while still gaining the benefits of 6 to 8 weeks of routine irrigation before winterization is needed. Unlike the spring, when rain and unpredictable weather changes can make working with soil almost impossible, fall typically offers more stable weather for planting. Plus, the crisp, cool air makes for a more enjoyable experience while planting.

Planting a mix of evergreen shrubs and trees ensures your landscape has color and texture during the winter months. While deciduous trees and shrubs lose their foliage during the winter, evergreens keep their leaves or needles year-round. Some examples of evergreen trees and shrubs are Mugo Pine, Blue Spruce, Photinia, Euonymus and Austrian Pine.

The use of ornamental grasses and selecting deciduous plants with brightly colored bark is another great way to create interest and contrast during the winter months. For example, Red Twig and Yellow Twig dogwoods have beautiful red and yellow branches and when combined with evergreen trees, the contrast is striking, even in the winter months.

Our area has very few choices when it comes to annuals for the fall and winter months.  However, you can still create a colorful, festive look in your pots and annual color beds by using a combination of evergreens and annual color.  For example, you can combine a Dwarf Alberta Spruce, kale and pansies. And, if we have significant moisture over the winter months, you can enjoy them all the way into early spring. Pots are a great way to be creative and incorporate seasonal items such as gourds, pumpkins, aspen branches or even hay bales and dried corn husks.  You can then incorporate evergreen clippings and pine cones over the winter months.

If you want to incorporate spring bulbs into your landscape, fall is the time to plant them.  Planting bulbs such as tulips and daffodils are a great way to enjoy early spring color.

Fall fertilization

While fertilization requirements differ between plants, adding nutrients can promote plant life. Iron, sulfur and higher amounts of phosphorous are fundamental nutrients for plant growth in the fall and are available in many fertilizers. To really know what your property needs we recommend soil testing, but a couple of broad-spectrum products to consider are as follows:

  • 24-6-10 is high in nitrogen but it is a slow-release product. It will keep your turf greener for longer in the fall.
  • 6-6-24 XB is a quick-release, potassium-based product. The potassium will help root growth over the winter.
  • Another alternative to consider is to top dress turf and amend the soil in planters with hummus.

Fall pruning

In the fall and winter, trees enter a dormant stage, halting their growth. Due to growth inactivity and dropping temperatures, this creates an ideal setting for pruning. Anytime between late fall and early spring is best for pruning trees because it promotes the tree’s current health and sustains future tree growth. And, because deciduous trees lose their leaves, it is a good time to perform canopy-pruning tasks. Look dead wood and branches that cross or rub against each other.

When it comes to your grasses, perennials and shrubs, it is good to let them go as long as possible before their final pruning. This is because the leaves are the part of the plant that takes in energy from the sun and carbon dioxide which are two vital ingredients in the process that the plant uses to produce food called photosynthesis. Allowing this to continue late into the fall promotes healthy root growth and give the plant the energy it needs to make it through the winter and flush out in the spring.


Without proper preparation, freezing temperatures might damage your irrigation system. To minimize this risk, you’ll need to winterize your irrigation system. Typically, in this region, we recommend performing this task in October/November. In some of the higher elevations, such as Somersett, you may need to winterize as early as October, depending on temperatures. You want to make sure the temperatures have dropped to the point where your turf and plants are naturally starting to go dormant, yet you don’t want to wait too long and risk freeze damage.

There are several methods to drain your irrigation system and it is important to research the option that is most appropriate for your system. Irrigation systems are installed using one of the three types of water removal: manual drain, auto drain or blowout. If you don’t know your system type, it is best to use the blowout method. More information about winterizing your system.