Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > October > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Autumn


As I look out my window, I see the tops of the trees are beginning to get that bronze cast they get just before they turn.  I’m already finding leaves beginning to turn on my redbud.  And I have enough acorns in my backyard to grow an entire forest of oaks.  (It’s a little annoying to hear the “clunk, clunk, clunk” of acorns hitting the deck all night long—especially when I don’t even have an oak in my yard—just on the hill behind my yard).  Fall is definitely here.

800 years ago, the seasons basically consisted of Summer, Winter and Harvest.  Spring was sort of glossed over as a “pre-summer” period known as Lenten.  The world “Harvest” comes from an old Norse word “Haust,” meaning “to gather.”  As more people began to leave the farms to work in the cities, they began to talk about “the fall of the leaves,” rather than “harvest.”  Today, “Fall” is used in North America, whereas in England, they still prefer “Autumn.” Autumn comes from the Latin word “auctumnus” meaning “harvest.”

In North America, fall begins with the Autumnal Equinox and ends with the Winter Solstice.  For meteorologists, fall is comprised of September through November.  In Australia, fall begins on March 1 and ends on May 31.

For me, as a gardener, Fall means the passing of tomato/cucumber season into broccoli/lettuce season as well as an abundance of fall leaves to mulch my perennial beds with, add to the compost pile or otherwise remove from where I don’t want them.

So why do the leaves turn color and fall?  As the days get shorter, trees begin to get ready for a winter rest.  Photosynthesis slows, then stops.  The chlorophyll which gives the leaves that rich green color begins to fade.  As the green fades other colors, which have been camouflaged by the chlorophyll, begin to show through.  Our pretty yellow, orange and gold leaves have always been yellow, orange, and gold—just hidden by the intense chlorophyll green.  In some trees, maples for example, the glucose left in the leaf when the chlorophyll fades turns the leaf red.  The intensity of fall colors can vary from year to year depending on the weather.  Warm sunny days combined with cool nights provide the most intense colors.

To ancient farmers, autumn was a time of harvesting and festivals were held to thank the gods for their bounty.  It was also a time of storing up the harvests for a long winter ahead.  In our time, autumn is a time to celebrate that summer re-runs are over and football season begins.  Retailers view autumn as a time to sell rakes and leaf blowers and have pre-season sales on space heaters and artificial Christmas trees.  Ever notice how we go looking for Halloween decorations and find Christmas merchandise?  “Happy Hallowthanksgivingweenmas.”
Posted: 10/6/2014 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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