Cyclone Rake Blog: October 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

As The Leaf Turns

Did the leaves where you live seem to be turning late this year? Maybe it seemed they are falling early? Or maybe it’s a combination of the two: The leaves seem to be turning early, but are staying on the trees longer….

It turns out (pun entirely intended) opinions abound about leaves: where the most spectacular foliage is located, when the peak time for viewing turning leaves, how soon and how heavy the leaf fall is.

We’re unlikely to settle any debates about where the foliage is most spectacular. But whether talking about sugar maples in New England or aspens in the Rockies, leaf turn and leaf drop depend an awful lot on science.

Variations in temperature and moisture are the factors affecting the seasonality of leaf drop the most. Fall’s cooler nights and shorter days trigger trees to begin restricting the flow of water to the leaf. Chlorophyll production is reduced as water flow is reduced, and that loss of chlorophyll results in the leaves turning from green (lots of chlorophyll) to the myriad of fall colors.

Leaf turn occurs as chlorophyll production declines. Early freezes, as well droughts in the late summer and early fall, can accelerate the decline of chlorophyll production – and contribute to early leaf drop. Leaf color hues can also be affected by droughts.

The whole process is how the tree’s leaves are protected from frost damage – the less water in the leaf, the less damage done by frost. The water flow is reduced to the leaf by a layer of cells at the base of the leaf stem. As these cells block water flow to the leaf, it also allows the leaf to make a clean break from the tree.

That’s the point when the Cyclone Rake does its work: collecting the fallen leaves from your yard and landscape. By this time in late October and early November, Cyclone Rake owners are collecting fallen leaves from the yardscape. Wind or rain will accelerate the leaf drop.

Chopped leaves can be composted or used to mulch around plantings or as a soil amendment in flower and vegetable gardens. Decaying leaves help raise the amount of organic matter in the soil – providing a basis for beauty in your landscape, just as decaying in the forests feed the forest soil, eventually helping create the fall foliage enjoyed by all.