DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Fall Leaves

We are ready to embark on the most colorful time of the year — fall colors. And there is more good news!

Great fall color is dependent on just the right weather conditions, especially moisture, and a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says current conditions put us on track for one of the most colorful autumns on record.

With the exception of the Arrowhead region of northeast Minnesota, most of the state has had either average or above-average precipitation, making for healthy trees, which produce the best color. If we continue to get adequate rainfall as nights grow longer, so much the bettter.

Leaf colors reach peak usually between mid-September and early October in the northern region of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central portion.

The color season comes to an end as Jack Frost heads southward out of Minnesota. The final period of fall color would include the Twin Cities.

According to the DNR, peak fall color lasts for about two weeks. But the period can be shorter if fall rainstorms blow off leaves or heavy rains pound them to the ground.

Trees at higher elevations, such as along the North Shore Drive north of Duluth, are the earliest to show color change. And maples, such as the sugar variety, turn blood red earlier, such as those on gravel hills, where the trees are more stressed.

The DNR provides maps on the weekly progress as the colors move quickly from the northern part of Minnesota down to the southern portions of the state in about a month’s time. Updates are provided Thursdays until the leaves are but a dull brown and the sky takes a gray autumn look. For more information, check the DNR’s website. At this time, leaves are moving from green to red, gold, brown and other hues.

While colorful leaves may be a delight to the eye, you must deal with those that will fall in your yard. Leaves left on lawns over winter can damage the turf, resulting in the need to reseed or re-sod in the spring.

Most people now use a mower attachment for leaves and make several trips over the lawn before the snow comes. If you have real heavy piles of leaves, bag them up the old way and haul to the landfill.

I still hand-rake my entire yard annually. I use some bagged leaves for winter protection around our house’s foundation.

But I still miss the autumns of years ago, when the leaves were raked and burned on a warm, sunny fall day in late October. The rich smell scented the autumn air, and the burning embers were great for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

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