One hundred-degree temperatures, combined with a lack of rain, have wreaked havoc on area lawns and gardens. Now is the perfect time to assess the damage inflicted, create a recovery plan and prepare for Ole’ Man Winter.

To combat the toll the heat has taken, Jim Graeler of Chesterfield Valley Nursery recommends pruning any dead branches out of trees and shrubs, and deep-soaking trees to replenish their root structure. “This time of year also is a great time to do a fall clean up to your garden,” he adds. The removal of dead leaves and driedout mulch, as well as the addition of a fresh layer of mulch, will not only beautify your beds but also provide winter protection to your plants’ root system. To add life and color to your fall garden, Graeler suggests plants like burning bush, viburnum, holly, mums and pansies. He also urges gardeners to not make the common mistake of assuming established trees and shrubs are rooted well enough to no longer need water. “We are seeing even large trees suffer under the stress of the drought and heat.” Until fall rains kick in, he advises watering every third day and cutting back as rains increase.

David Sherwood of Sherwood’s Forest Nursery says mid-September is prime time to power rake, thatch, aerate and reseed to renovate your lawn’s structure and prepare it for next year (rental equipment can speed up the process). Follow up reseeding and fertilization with consistent watering. “It is important to keep up with watering at least twice a week until the ground freezes,” Sherwood says.

With the onset of fall, Sherwood’s motto: “The best time to plant a tree would have been 30 years ago, the second-best time is now!” can be taken literally. Evergreens can be planted from mid-September until the ground freezes, and fall also is a good time to plant shade trees like October Glory and Red Sunset maples to provide relief from the next summer’s heat rays.

Sherwood advises homeowners to know when they’re in over their head. Larger balled and burlap trees with trunks 2-inches or larger in diameter can weigh at least 300 pounds. It’s better to leave their planting to the professionals. Additionally, seek out a landscape expert for large tree-pruning. “Be careful to not prune shrubs like rhododendron, which form their buds in the fall, as you will not see any flowers in the spring,” Sherwood explains. Typically, local garden centers are happy to offer their advice on which plants should be pruned and when.

Now that we are starting to experience some relief from the scorching summer heat, it’s time to get out your gardening gloves and give your garden some T.L.C.