Crisp, cool mornings. Perfect ‘sleeping weather’at night. Plant catalogs and landscaping ‘how to’ books piling up on the coffee table. It must be Fall! Fall is my favorite time of the year for so many reasons, not just the wonderful weather. This is that special time of year when we prepare and plant now, anticipating a wonderful Spring and Summer a few months in the future. Let’s take a look at four areas pertinent to the season: pruning, weed control, budgeting and tree selection. Pruning The end of Summer and the very beginning of Fall is a good time for some gentle pruning. But note the emphasis on the word ‘gentle’. Careful shaping of trees and shrubs can be tackled right now, but this isn’t the time to do an ‘Edward Scissorhands’ with those pruning shears! In a useful online article originated by the Office of Agricultural Communications at Mississippi State University, Norman Winter, horticulture specialist with the University’s Extension Service, says, ‘Extensive [Fall] pruning could generate too much succulent growth and an early freeze could then damage the plant. It is better to do major pruning just before Spring while the plants are still dormant.’ I have created a hot link to the entire article at my web site. Simply go to www.landsteward.org and find this column archived under ‘The Plant Man’ heading. Then simply click on this link: http:// msucares.com/news/print/lgnews/lg03/ 030825.html Weed control A friend of mine told me that he doesn’t believe in getting rid of weeds. ‘If I killed off all weeds and broadleaf,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t have anything green at all to look at!’ If you said ‘amen’ then maybe you can skip this section, but for the rest of us, this is a good time to apply a systemic weed killer such as Roundup, the chemical name for which is glyphosate Actively- growing weeds absorb the glyphosate through their leaves and suck it down to the roots. It can take a couple of weeks to totally kill the weeds, as the absorption process is relatively slow. Avoid the temptation to cut back weeds before the process is complete or you’ll prevent the glyphosate reaching the roots. Products like Roundup work best when the ambient temperature is still fairly warm, so don’t wait too long to attack your weeds. Check the weather forecast, too, and avoid applying just before a rain shower which would wash it off. If you prefer not to use chemicals, you can of course use a small gardening fork or trowel and carefully remove all the offending weeds by hand. You can also find some articles and previous columns addressing ‘natural’ weed control and fertilization at my web site. Budget It’s a good idea to devote some thought to how much you can comfortably invest in your landscape this season. And yes, it is an investment that will pay off next Spring and probably for years ahead. Do some comparison shopping to find a good balance between price and quality. Your computer is perfect to do some window shopping without leaving home. I suggest you get a pad and start writing down plants and prices as you come across them during your online (or print catalog) search. Be sure to make a note of the web address, too, while you’re surfing so that you can easily return to that resource when you get around to ordering. As you build your wish list, put asterisks by the ‘must haves’ and gradually delete those plants that don’t quite make the cut. If all your ‘must haves’ fit within your budget, you know you can order without stretching the dollars too thinly! Trees As you make your Fall selections, don’t forget about trees! Truly, trees are an investment in so many ways. They can shade your home from summer sun and protect it from icy winter winds. They reduce soil erosion and help to lower your utility bills. When it comes time to move, carefully chosen trees create ‘curb appeal’ for would- be buyers, and increase the value of your property. If you’d like some of my personal recommendations for trees you might want to select, send me an e-mail with a few basic details about your location, etc, and I’ll get back to you with some ideas.Most of all, enjoy this beautiful season! The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.landsteward.org where you can also subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter.