There are three things I never discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.” –Charlie Brown

Autumn can be a spectacular season in Wisconsin as the leaves change to vivid red, orange, yellow and purple.

However, not all autumns are the same. Temperature and moisture greatly influence autumn colors. This varies considerably from year to year. No two falls are alike. Warm, sunny days bring the most spectacular colors.

Carotenoids are always present in leaves. Yellow and gold in aspen, birch and yellow poplar are consistent from year to year but in order to get the brilliant scarlet, purple, and crimson colors in maples to develop, bright sunlight during the day and cool temperatures at night are needed.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affect autumn colors. A late spring or severe summer drought can delay the onset of fall colors by several weeks. A very warm period during fall lowers the intensity of color also. This year our fall colors were spectacular although too short lived.

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November is here so if you have Chinese cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and kale in your garden, you can keep them outdoors until you have a hard frost below 25 degrees. Asparagus needs to be mulched with chopped leaves or straw to protect the crowns from frost. If you have carrots, parsnips and leeks, mulch them with at least a foot of straw and you will keep the ground from freezing and enjoy your harvest for winter digging. Be sure to mark the area with tall stakes. Organic mulches such as bark, leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings break down over time and enrich the soil.

A word of caution: if you are recycling dead trees into your garden for mulch, the University of Wisconsin Madison suggests to never use wood chips from trees suffering from a fungus called Verticillum which can survive for at least a year. The use of contaminated mulch can lead to an infection of both woody plants and herbaceous plants. Therefore, the use of mulch from diseased trees can contaminate your whole garden and should be avoided.

Keep checking your onions, potatoes and squash that are in storage for any spoilage. If you have one rotten potato, it spreads quickly to the others. Time to cut your Hydrangeas paniculata, the mop head type, down to the ground. Wrap young newly planted trees to prevent sunscald and rodent damage but remember to remove the wrap in spring. Cut summer bearing raspberry canes that have fruited down to the ground and for ever-bearing raspberries such as yellow, black or purple, cut the canes down to 15 inches.

Now is also the time of year to propagate cuttings of holly, yew, arborvitae, and juniper after several hard frosts. When mowing your lawn for the last time of the season, mow it at least a half inch shorter than the usual three inches. After the ground freezes, mulch azaleas and rhododendrons with chopped leaves from oak or use pine needles.

The next Master Gardener classes coming up include Propagation with Phyllis Both on Nov. 2 and Entomology on Nov. 9 with PJ Liesch and a. The cost is $15 to join the class. Call 608-355-3250 to sign up today.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at Phyllis.both@saukcountywi.gov or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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