Fort Wayne’s leaf pickup will run Oct. 22 through Dec. 7. As in past years, the city will be divided into north, central and south sections. Two pickups will be conducted in each section. For more information, call 427-2302 or go to cityoffortwayne.org/leaves.
A mild winter, an early spring and a dry summer have given way to early fall foliage.
If you think that backyard maple is changing color a bit early this year, credit this year’s drought.
But while leaves might drop slightly ahead of time, one of fall’s other favorites, pumpkins, have emerged relatively unscathed by the dry summer.
“You could hardly tell there was even a drought,” said Jack DeGrandchamp, who sells pumpkins from his vegetable stand on Dicke Road in Fort Wayne.
In some cases, leaves have been showing signs of their seasonal change for a couple of weeks. That’s a week or so early, some experts say.
Red maples in particular are turning early, said Ricky Kemery, horticulture educator for Purdue University’s Allen County extension.
“Normally we would see a peak in fall color around the 10th of October, but this year it will be a bit more prolonged because of stressed trees turning earlier and other trees turning on time,” Kemery said by email.
The changing colors mark the seasonal end of the trees’ food-making process called photosynthesis.
The green in leaves comes from chlorophyll, used in that process. As fall approaches and days get shorter, the chlorophyll breaks down, revealing underlying colors. The tree enters a stage of dormancy, surviving winter on food it made during summer.
Generally, if a tree is under stress, it will go into dormancy earlier, said Bill Horan, educator for the Wells County extension agency.
Indiana experienced its worst drought in decades this summer, with prolonged temperatures in the 90s. As lawns turned brown, tree leaves generally remained green through the harsh weather.
Maple and ash trees are now turning colors. Oaks are usually last to change, said Dave Addison, extension educator in Whitley County. The upper and outer leaves, which are farthest from the nutrients, are the earliest to turn, he added.
“We may be a week ahead, something like that,” Addison said. “We might be as much as two weeks ahead, but it’s not drastically ahead. I’ve seen some years where the middle of September we were already getting leaves change and that sort of stuff.”
Elysia Berry, extension educator in DeKalb County, said fall colors might be “a smidge early, just like everything else this year.”
“A combination of the heat and especially the cooler temperatures and the frost we had the last week or so, that probably helped encourage it some,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s that much earlier than normal.”
Still in question is how vivid the colors will be.
Kemery said sunny days and cool nights without much wind or rain are optimal conditions for fall color.
A Purdue news release in mid-September said rain the state received should help produce normal fall colors.
“It’s too early to say whether the drought will be a major factor in leaf coloration,” Lenny Farlee, a Purdue extension forester, states in the release. “If we continue to get a little rain and lots of sunny weather, we could have a decent fall color.”
A decent pumpkin crop is all DeGrandchamp and others could hope for. And they apparently got it.
Betting that the drought would soon end, DeGrandchamp, 55, said he planted pumpkins June 18, a week later than usual.
Still, the crop required lots of hand watering. Only now, three months later, is he starting to see some money for his labor. The pumpkins average $3 or $4, he said.
Prices won’t be high and there shouldn’t be a shortage, but don’t expect any huge pumpkins at his stand, DeGrandchamp said. The weather kept them no larger than a basketball.
At least those two-hour daily waterings are a thing of the past.
“It was a lot of work,” he said. “I think it was the first three weeks I watered every day.”