Prolonged dry spell could mean fall foliage fail

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The unofficial autumn season seems to start earlier every year: Halloween candy and decorations were already on display before Labor Day. This year, it seems some trees are also rushing the season. 

George Coombs, director of horticulture at Mt. Cuba botanical garden in Northern Delaware, says deciduous trees save energy by getting rid of the leaves in the fall. 

But thanks to a weird weather pattern we’ve been stuck in for several weeks, “they’re kind of doing the same thing now, but it’s just that they’ve basically given up for the year a little early just because it’s been so dry and they can’t get the water that they need,” he explained. 

Coombs says it’s a way for the tree to protect itself, and this shouldn’t do it any long term harm. But he says it may throw a wrench in your leaf-peeping plans.

“The plants are getting so dry now that I’m afraid we’re gonna start to lose a lot of leaves early or they’re just not gonna be healthy enough to color up.”

But there is an upside to the early leaf-drop, says Coombs: free mulch that you can rake onto your garden bed, “adding organic matter to your soil, adding nutrients to the soil, a great way to keep organic waste on your site, as well.”

The nonprofit Mt. Cuba Center is hosting a Tree Festival on Sept. 28 that includes tree planting and pruning demonstrations, hayrides, live music and a native plant sale. 

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