Fall Is In The Air – Or – What Is That Special “Fall” Feeling? –– Master Gardener Scoop – October 18, 2016

Fall Is In The Air – Or – What Is That Special “Fall” Feeling?

Master Gardener Scoop – October 18, 2016

By Will Summers
Master Gardener

The Autumnal Equinox was a month ago, the harvest moon was last week and the days are notably shorter now. You may feel as though “fall is in the air”. However, when you see all around you this season is arriving, please consider “What makes the air seem so different?” The changes you feel stimulate many changes in your senses.

Sight: The light is different. Over the past six and a half months, the sun has moved from halfway to the horizon to almost overhead, and back again. This affects our day length, of course but also the lengthening of the shadows even at midday. Shorter day length equals a longer dark period when the Earth’s surface may naturally cool. However, the lower angle of the sun means that sunlight reaching the northern hemisphere has to pass through many more miles of atmosphere, thereby filtering more of the warming qualities of the sun. You are likely aware that you are getting up in the dark, and soon you will drive home in the dark too.

Looking at yellowing silver maple through sassafras leaves.

Sounds: Have the birds stopped singing or is it just me? you may ask. Yes, the birds have passed through their breeding seasons, so the territoriality of mating songs is now long passed. As the first fall winds blow, many of our songbirds have already flown. The fall bird migration is now well underway. Those birds, and other wildlife as well, are earnestly preparing for the long winter months and there is no time of idle banter. The noises of spring and summer are now gone.

Smells: Aroma may be the most complex and impelling of the senses that detect the approach of fall. The smell of burning leaves is not all that brings in the “Fall Air”. Seasonal fall air brings a host of ingredients. The fall brings out certain molds that coat falling leaves and begin their annual decomposition. The rich smells of harvesting corn and soybean fields occupy most of the air in Southern Illinois. Fields exposed to fall cultivation open new smells of fresh earth and soil organisms exposed to the sunlight. How does the smell of burning leaves make you think of fall?

Taste: The flavor of a good, crisp, locally-grown apple in the fall, a drink of fresh apple cider right down to the flavor of Mom’s pumpkin pies all bring on a wonderful feeling of this season. Even the most recently popular pumpkin-spice latte seems to have somehow crept into our culture in recent years that becomes popular this time of year. We cannot begin to list all the foods, flavors and drinks that bring to our senses that good fall feeling. I personally look forward to picking ripe persimmons and their flavor found in nothing else.

Health: Allergies affect many people. Seasonal change brings pollen, molds and dust otherwise not apparent at other times of the year. Many people are not affected, many people stock-up and use medications, and still many more people just endure and complain. Fall weather usually cleans up the air and air pollution conditions usually raise from fair to good most of the time. It is a good time to be out-of-doors and enjoying a milder climate.

Fall begins the cold and flu season. Already we’re seeing absences in the classrooms and the workplace. Flu shot clinics have opened in previous weeks, and if you are a person at risk of getting the flu, you should have already made preparations to receive your flu shot.

Fall Activities: Many of our local communities are underway to celebrate their fall festivals. Please take the time to partake in the local harvest festivals in our nearby communities this week. Visit any local fruit stand or craft fair auction. Be sure to take along children to acquaint them with this unique time of year.

The Washington County Master Gardeners wish to thank all those who participated in our Plant Swap held at the Nashville Fall Festival and visited our booth at the Dubois Fall Festival. Please continue to direct your gardening questions to any Master Gardener or to your local University of Illinois Extension Office.