While Labor Day came and went and signified the unofficial end of summer, the actual end is the Autumnal Equinox which is September 22nd this year.
The word “equinox” comes from Latin aequus, meaning “equal,” and nox, “night.” On the equinox, day and night are roughly equal in terms of length.
During the equinox, the Sun crosses what we call the “celestial equator”—an imaginary extension into space of Earth’s equator line. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line. When the Sun crosses the equator from north to south, this marks the autumnal equinox; when it crosses from south to north, this marks the vernal equinox.
Nights will be getting longer than days after the 22nd. Sunsets and sunrises will be earlier.
Trees and shrubs will begin to change color. Many think it is the cold which changes leaf colors, but the shortening of daylight is the real reason.
As the autumn days grow shorter, the reduced light triggers chemical changes in deciduous plants causing a corky wall to form between the twig and the leaf stalk. This corky wall eventually causes the leaf to drop off in the breeze. As the corky cells multiply, they seal off the vessels that supply the leaf with nutrients and water and also block the exit vessels, trapping simple sugars in the leaves. The combination of reduced light, lack of nutrients, and no water add up to the death of the pigment chlorophyll, the “green” in leaves.
Once the green is gone, two other pigments show their bright faces. These pigments, carotene (yellow) and anthocyanin (red), exist in the leaf all summer but are masked by the chlorophyll which helps plants absorb sunlight. (The browns in autumn leaves are the result of tannin, a chemical that exists in many leaves, especially oaks.)
Sugar trapped in autumn leaves by the corky wall (the abscission layer) is largely responsible for the vivid color. Some additional anthocyanins are also manufactured by sunlight acting on the trapped sugar. This is why the foliage is so sparkling after several bright fall days and more pastel during rainy spells.
Birds and butterflies will start to migrate by following the sun as fall starts knocking on our door.
Time still exists to get some things done in the landscape. It's a good time to split hostas and day lilies. Fertilize and over seed your lawn. Give your plants a feeding of holly-tone or plant-tone. A good feeding now will reap huge rewards this spring! If you do not fertilize any other time of the year, especially your lawn, now is THE BEST time of the year to do so.
Schedule your fall tree plantings, and changes to your landscape. Plants and trees will produce up to 60% of their root growth now through October. It's a great time to plant! In a “normal” year, evenings are cooler, rains are more frequent, and less maintenance is needed for plants.
It’s a great time to add privacy to your yard with spruces, pines, Canaan firs or arborvitae.
With fall inching closer every day, pumpkins in colors of yellow, white, orange and autumnal mix variations combined with corn stalks, asters, mums and sunflowers will help you greet the season with a great display. Add a large or mini bale of straw and you're all set.
Take advantage of the warm days ahead. Although summer has slipped by us all this year, I hope you cherish these days. You never know when cold weather will be here, and we all will be complaining about that! Ohio, land we all call home!!