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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fall foliage guide

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"And it makes me wanna take a back road, Makes me wanna take the long way home," is part of the lyrics to Rodney Atkins' "Take A Back Road," song.

Those lyrics sum up exactly what the beautiful fall landscape makes me want to do. Chemistry is the driving force behind the leaves changing colors.

Throughout the summer, chlorophyll gives leaves their green color and is essential in the photosynthetic production of food needed by the tree. Once the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to fall, chlorophyll production slows down.

As the temperatures drop, other pigments begin to appear giving leaves their brown, red, orange, purple and yellow hues. The color the leaf takes on depends on which chemical is more prominent: Anthocyanin, carotene, xanthophylls, or tannin.

When the leaves start to change colors, their outer margins will change first. Slowly, the color will change further into the leaf, leaving the midrib to be the last green segment. Temperature, light and water supply are the primary factors that influence the pigment of the leaves.

Red colors often develop on leaves that receive bright light. Color intensity will decrease if there are several rainy days near the peak of coloration.

The biggest impact that weather has is delaying the onset of the fall colors due to a late summer drought.

Therefore, it is generally said that the best fall foliage occurs when there is a dry, late summer with rain in the early fall or when there is heavy rain and bright sunshine with the gradual drop in temperatures. The bad part about the leaves changing colors is that the color never lasts as long as we wish it would.

Instead, the leaves eventually fall to the ground resulting in a yard that is covered in crumbly red, yellow and orange decaying leaves.

This pesky problem can provide you with some free mulch, a new source of compost, and a chance to have some fun.

Some homeowners have issues with the smell that is associated with mulch.

One way to get around that is by racking your leaves up and using them as an odor free mulch alternative.

Leaves often have enough microorganisms on them to start the composting process fairly easily. The resulting compost is great to use as a soil conditioner when there is adequate moisture in the compost.

One fun way to dispose of your leaves is to spend some time with your family raking and playing in them.

In particular, it is often fun to rake the leaves into a huge pile and spend time jumping in them with younger children. Once you get them into a pile, they will be easier to handle regardless of whether you choose to bag them up, burn them, or let them blow away in the wind. Which ever method you choose to do, it is best to make sure that it is allowed in your community since some locations do not allow burning of leaves or collecting of them through a waste pickup system. As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County, or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu.

Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Oct. 13 -- Owen County Extension Board annual dinner,

* Oct. 13 -- Adventures in Gardening, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Hendricks County Fairgrounds. Cost is $45. Contact 317-745-9260 to register,

* Oct. 16 -- Area PCARET Meeting,

* Oct. 20 -- Ohio Valley Garden Conference, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Evansville. Cost is $42. Call 812-963-5577 to register,

* Oct. 29 -- Clay County Extension Board meeting, Clay County Extension Office, and

* Oct. 31 -- Clay County Extension Office closed.