Tag Archives: killing frost

Autumn Leaf Rain

Late autumn leaf rain in the Ozarks isn’t what you think of when you hear the word rain. It isn’t water.

Frost arrives and the leaves turn color. This year many of them turned brown. Some turned yellow, purple or orange.

Regular rain did go through when the color was peaking on the hills. Heavy stratus clouds blanketed the sky and kept the days dim dulling the colors.

goldfinch eating seeds
The giant ragweed and other plants are dead sticks now with food attached. Goldfinches, sparrows, juncos and cardinals are reaping the seeds.

Peak color often holds for several days. It did hold this year for two or three dull days.

Finally the clouds moved on one afternoon letting the sunlight make the hill colors glow. Wind made some leaves fall.

The next morning was about twenty degrees. This is frost flower temperature.

These delicate ice curls only happen one or two mornings each year. I go up on the hill to where the dittany grows to look for them.

autumn leaf rain
The first big killing frost signals the beginning of the autumn leaf rain and the end of fall colors. Any hint of a breeze brings down clouds of colorful leaves to blanket the ground. It continues until the trees are bare for the winter.

As I crossed the bridge, I found I was in the middle of the autumn leaf rain. Every tree was raining its leaves.

Most deciduous trees have s special layer form between their leaves and stems when the leaves change color. This double layer of cells is where the leaf will break free when it falls.

Like the color change, temperature determines when most leaves fall. A deep killing frost like twenty degrees does it.

Under foot the ground was paved with color. Leaves drifted down on the wind making me look for birds and finding only leaves.

ice edged leaves
Spikes of ice create a lacy effect on pasture plants. This takes temperatures in the twenties or below. These spikes vanish when the sun touches them.

The pastures were white with frost. Birds were everywhere. The juncos or snowbirds and sparrows have arrived for the winter. They are eating seeds on the various plants such as giant ragweed, daisy fleabane and grasses.

The hillside hadn’t gotten cold enough for frost flowers. The dittany even had green leaves on its stems. The trees were the attraction with their autumn leaf rain.

Admire the Ozark hills more in “My Ozark Home.”

Leaves Change Into Fall Colors

Leaves have a color for every season of the year. With the coming of killing frost the leaves change into fall colors.

Spring brings a delicate light green. The green darkens over the summer. About mid August yellow creeps into the green.

green hills

Fall has limped along with many warm days. The trees stayed green, waiting.

Over the week after killing frost, especially if there is another one or two frosts, that yellow spreads. Reds begin to appear. Length of day may trigger the changes, but frost makes the leaves change into fall colors.

One interesting experiment in my science classes was the chromatography of leaf pigments. It isn’t hard to do.

Take an eight inch or more long strip about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide from a filter. A finer grained one is best and some coffee filters are like that.

leaves change into fall colors

A week after killing frost the change is dramatic. The green hill is now shades of orange.

Have a tall jar so the strip barely touches the bottom and folds a little over the top. Tape the fold onto a pencil so the strip will dangle down from the pencil into the jar.

Draw a line in pencil (it must be pencil) across the strip 1 1/2 inches above the end.

Gather a couple of leaves. These can’t be dried out These can be spring, summer or fall leaves.

Place the leaf over the line and rub it with the side of a penny. You may have to move the leaf and repeat the rubbing to get a dark spot on or barely over the line.

Pour isopropyl or rubbing alcohol in the jar an inch deep. Hang the strip into the jar and wait. You will see the alcohol move up the strip. When the alcohol reaches the top of the strip, take it out and look what happened to the leaf spot.

The alcohol pulls the spot up the strip with it. But not all of the spot moves the same. There should be darker spots of slightly to very different colors in a line over the spot. These spots will fade as the strip dries so look quickly.

leaves change into fall colors

Approaching sunset turns the oranges into fire. The color will peak in about another week, but lose depth as many leaves begin to fall. Soon the hills will be bare for winter.

Using acetone or ethanol works too and can give slightly different spot arrangements. Each likes different parts of the leaf pigments better than others and carries them farther.

The striking thing for many students was that green leaves could have more than one green and colors other than green in them. The colors weren’t always the colors they saw. In class we discussed what the different chlorophylls and anthocyanins were and did.

Now I stand and watch as the leaves change into fall colors.

My Fall Garden Survives

Winter walked through my garden leaving a white coating that turned to black in the morning sun. The summer garden ended. The fall garden remains – for now.

Killing frost is rarely a surprise. Average dates are given for my Ozark area about October 17. The days are warm. The nights cool to cold.

fall garden garlic

Garlic planted in the fall will be ready to pull in late spring. In the Ozarks garlic does the best when planted in the fall. I put down a good four inches of mulch, burrow holes through to put in the cloves and watch it grow. It stays green most of the winter.

Already the peppers are harvested. These summer plants like hot days and warm nights. Fall temperatures leave the peppers hanging on slowly ripening. They will ripen as fast in the pantry.

Tomatoes are another summer crop loving hot days and warm nights. Green tomatoes will hang on the vines waiting for the temperatures to go up. In the pantry they will turn red. The flavor isn’t as good as summer sun ripened ones, but not bad.

fall garden cabbage

Cabbage will take a hard frost. It slows down, hunkers down, but keeps growing. The good thing is that the cabbage worms don’t survive.

Squash plants too are summer crops. By fall the squash bugs are killing the vines starting with the summer varieties and moving to the winter varieties. The winter squashes are putting on their thick rinds.

My pantry was filled with sacks of peppers, tomatoes and squash.

Frost can form pretty patterns and edgings on plants. It freezes the water inside the summer plants destroying their cells and killing them.

The morning after killing frost is so depressing. The tomatoes were towering over my head with vines heavy with fruit. Now the vines are limp and dark.

fall garden turnips

Turnips like cool weather. They don’t mind a good frost. I never seem to plant them thin enough, but the extras make good greens. A good mulch along the rows keeps them growing better.

In the beds nearby the fall garden is still green. Cabbage, broccoli, turnips and garlic hang their leaves in the frost.

Once the frost melts, the leaves stand up still fresh and green. All but the garlic will slowly produce their crops in the warm days of Indian summer.

Another fall garden crop is chickweed. This sprouts in the fall growing green and lush with the cool temperatures and moisture. It like the garlic will overwinter.

By November most of the fall crops will succumb to winter’s cold blasts. Until then, they are a welcome bit of green in the garden.