Grow With O: Autumn Days

What do you see as you gaze out the window today? As I look out the window from the computer, I spot beautiful, clear blue skies and a yard that will not have to be mowed for several more days. The neighbor’s yard is neatly mowed, and Bobby’s hay field has been recently cut. The trees around the hay field are starting to change colors! Hints of autumn are all around us.

Soon the colorful foliage from our deciduous trees will be falling. The brilliant reds, yellows and oranges have been there all along, but were masked by the green.

It is not the chilly weather that causes the leaves to change colors. It is the effect of the lack of daylight. In late September we experience the autumnal equinox.

The days are shorter, and the nights get longer. The lack of daylight tells the deciduous trees to stop gathering energy and prepare for the dormant season – winter.

The chemical chlorophyll has been absorbing sunlight and giving leaves the green coloration. The chemical equation changes as the sunlight hours shorten. A corky wall of cells forms between the twig and leaf stalk causing the leaf to drop from the tree. The corky cells seal off the vessels that feed the leaf with water and nutrients. Simple sugars are trapped in the leaves. The lack of nutrients, less light and water help in the process of chlorophyll breaking down. The green colors in the leaves fade and the colors of autumn appear.

Try to keep those fallen leaves raked. The leaves make wonderful mulch to protect your garden plants from the cold, wet winter ahead. Do you have an area with poor soil? Recently, I have read several articles on lasagna gardening. That is a no-dig, no-till organic gardening method. Research says to place cardboard over the top of the weeds in an area you would like to develop and wet the cardboard down. Add layers of grass clippings and leaves. By spring you should have rich, fluffy soil.

A layer of leaves over the garden spot will enrich the soil. As the fall leaves are full of nutrients, chopping them into tiny pieces will provide an all-natural lawn food.

Add those leaves to your compost pile. Honestly, I think the best thing to do with all those leaves will be to blow them into a large pile. Then I’ll call and invite the sweet things over and let them jump into the pile for as long as they want! Add a cup of hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows and they might even rake the pile back up for you.

Have you picked out your favorite pumpkins for your fall decor? Every year more varieties of pumpkins can be seen. You can find the traditional orange ones that work great for the jack-o-lanterns. I purchased some cute smaller yellow and white striped and white ones that worked great for a simple arrangement in a basket by the door. I spotted some very pretty blue ones, too. Pumpkins and gourds are like people – they come in all shapes and sizes!

Mums, pansies and ornamental cabbages can be found in the local garden centers. They will work in container gardens. Add a few to your landscape to brighten the dark frosty winter days ahead.

Former elementary teacher and avid gardener Olivia Sansing lives in the New Hope community and shares timely tips on behalf of the Lowndes County Master Gardeners.

Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.

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