Soils may dictate the array of fall colors as much as the trees rooted in them, according to a forest survey out of North Carolina. By taking careful stock and laboratory analyses of the autumn foliage of sweetgum and red maple trees along transects from floodplains to ridge-tops in a nature preserve in Charlotte, N.C., former University of North Carolina at Charlotte graduate student Emily M. Habinck found that in places where the soil was relatively low in nitrogen and other essential elements, trees produced more red pigments known as anthocyanins.

Habinck’s discovery supports a 2003 hypothesis put forward to explain why trees bother to make red pigments, by plant physiologist William Hoch of Montana State University, Bozeman. Hoch found that if he genetically blocked anthocyanin production in red-leafed plants, their leaves were unusually vulnerable to fall sunlight, and so sent less nutrients to the plant roots for winter storage.

For trees living in nutrient-poor soils, then, it makes sense to produce more anthocyanins, which protect the leaves longer, so as much nutrient as possible can be recovered from leaves before winter sets in. It is, after all, the process of recovering of nutrients from leaves which turns leaves from green to yellow, orange and sometimes anthocyanin-red.

The trees Habinck studied appear to be acting in accordance with Hoch’s hypothesis. “It makes sense that anthocyanin production would have a function, because it requires energy expenditure,” said Habinck. Put in economic terms, anthocyanins are an investment made by stressed trees in situations where they stand to gain from the extra recovery of nutrients from leaves. It’s not about the showy color, but about survival.

“The rainbow of color we see in the fall is not just for our personal human enjoyment — rather, it is the trees going on about their lives and trying to survive,” said Habinck’s advisor, Martha C. Eppes, a soil scientist and assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Eppes will present the research at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Monday, 29 October, in Denver, CO.

The reason the soil-leaf color connection wasn’t made long ago is partly because Hoch’s hypothesis was needed to put it into perspective. It also might be that many plant researchers were missing the forest for the trees.

“I think that most of the work has been done by biologists looking at production of anthocyanins in trees themselves,” said Eppes. They hadn’t stepped back and looked at patterns of tree color.

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Green Tomato & Pimento Cheese Biscuits

This recipe combines two Southern favorite flavors in one deliciously flaky biscuit. The tart, juicy green tomatoes provide a welcome counterpoint to the savory, salty cheese. Giving the tomatoes a brief turn in the oven first ensures that they’ll end up well cooked and won’t make the biscuits soggy with their juices. This recipe makes about twelve biscuits, depending on the size of cutter used


1 1/2 heaping cups green tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

Hefty pinch fresh-ground black pepper

Hefty pinch cayenne

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 cup grated sharp cheddar, tossed with a few spoonfuls of all-purpose flour

4-ounce jar of pimientos (roasted red peppers), drained, or substitute 1/4 cup roasted red peppers cut into a 1/4-inch dice

2 tablespoons melted butter


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment, spread out the green tomato cubes and bake until they dry out slightly and just begin to color, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, paprika, garlic powder (if using), pepper and cayenne. Using a food processor, pastry cutter, or your hands, cut the butter into the flour until it is reduced to oatmeal-sized bits. Beat together the buttermilk and egg, and then gently mix this into the flour-butter mixture until just barely combined. Add the cheddar, pimientos and cooked and cooled green tomatoes, and gently mix until combined. Place a fresh piece of parchment on the empty cooking sheet.

Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop, and press into a rectangle that’s about 1 inch high. Fold the dough over on itself, like an envelope. Give it a 90-degree turn, and press out again to a 1-inch high rectangle (this builds in layers, to make it extra flakey.) Repeat the folding and pressing. Cut into biscuits with a 2- to 3-inch biscuit cutter, and place on the prepared baking sheets. The biscuits will rise significantly, so leave a couple of inches of space between them. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter, then bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. They can be eaten warm or cold, but are especially delicious straight from the oven.

Harvesting Home Grown Apples

Important keys to a long storage life for home-grown apples are picking at the proper time and storing correctly. The best time to pick an apple cultivar may vary a week or more from year to year, depending on the time the tree is in bloom and the climatic conditions during the growing season. Cloudy, cool conditions or drought conditions tend to delay fruit maturity. The harvest time also depends on the apple cultivar.

Home-grown apples that will be stored should be harvested when they have reached minimum maturity but are not yet ripe. Mature apples are full-size and have a light straw or greenish-yellow under-color. The under-color is the “base” color beneath the red blush. The intensity of the red color is not an indicator of maturity. At minimum maturity, apples will be hard and crisp. They will have developed their characteristic flavor but will be somewhat starchy.

Fruit does not die when harvested. It remains a living organism that continues to take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. After harvest, an apple no longer receives nutrients from the tree and, since it is still respiring, it must use the food it has stored over the growing season. As this food is gradually used up during storage, the sugar, starch, and acid content of the apple changes, eventually the tissue breaks down; the apple becomes mealy, and develops an “off” flavor. Loss of water can cause the fruit to become rubbery. Proper apple storage preserves the quality of the fruit by slowing ripening and reducing water loss.

Growing Giant Pumpkins

Always apply lime and fertilizers based on soil test recommendations. Providing adequate nutrients throughout the growing season will insure healthy, vigorous vines, not to mention large pumpkins. Granular fertilizers should be applied as a broadcast application over the soil surface and incorporated into the soil 4 to 6 inches deep a few days ahead of setting out your transplants. Giant pumpkin vines require approximately 2 pounds nitrogen (N), 3 pounds phosphorous (P2O2) and 6 pounds potash (K2O) per 1,000 square feet of growing space. The addition of organic matter (manure, etc.) to the garden is important to establish good soil tilth.

A foliar feeding program should be started after pollination and fruit set have occurred. There are several foliar fertilizers available. Follow label directions and continue application throughout the growing season.

Growing giant pumpkins requires an early start. Seeds should be sown individually and started indoors in 12-inch peat pots about the end of April. A well balanced potting medium is recommended. Plants are ready for transplanting when the first true leaf is fully expanded. This is usually 10 to 14 days after seeding. Transplants can be protected from late spring frost using a floating row cover.

Growing space in the garden is important. Each plant should be allowed approximately 2,500 square feet. This area may sound quite large, but it is essential for vine growth. Pumpkins prefer long hours of sunlight, so select your garden site accordingly. Avoid shaded areas and select an area with good surface and internal drainage.

Pumpkins are shallow rooted, so water slowly with at least one inch of water per week if rainfall is not adequate. More water may be required during hot, windy summer days. Water during morning or early afternoon hours so foliage dries by evening. This helps prevent the spread of leaf diseases.

Trickle irrigation is best, but soaker hoses also work well. Overhead sprinklers are effective; however, wet foliage increases the chance of disease, especially mildew.

If planting is done in a well-prepared bed, weeds will seldom be a problem and can be controlled by hand-weeding or hoeing. Continue to remove weeds until the vines cover the ground. At this time, the dense foliage will shade out most weeds.

Plastic mulches are very effective for controlling weeds. Plastic mulches also warm the soil, and can maintain good soil moisture levels. The plastic can be installed when the soil is in good planting condition, any time from a few days to 2 to 3 weeks before planting. If you do not use plastic, pumpkins will benefit from organic mulches applied in the summer after the soil has warmed.

When summer mulching materials are used, such as straw, additional nitrogen is recommended. Mix one tablespoon of ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, or nitrate of soda per one bushel of mulch. Apply once or twice during the early growing season. A complete fertilizer that is high in nitrogen may be substituted for any of the above. Apply the fertilizer when the mulch is moist.

Herbicides are also available for weed control. However, only a trained and licensed applicator should apply these materials.

Windbreaks are necessary to protect young plants that are not fully rooted. Windbreaks should be positioned on plants most susceptible to southwest winds until late June when side-runners are 3 to 4 feet long. The use of a snow fence and burlap can make an excellent windbreak. Covering the vines at each node with soil will help anchor vines down and promote secondary root development.

The planting site of your plants should be rotated each year to reduce the incidence of insect and disease pressure. Without a regular spray program for insects and diseases, your success rate for producing a giant pumpkin can be significantly reduced. An insect and disease control program must be initiated at transplanting. Insects are the primary vectors for transmitting viruses. Once a viral infection has occurred, there is no way to stop it. There are several pesticides recommended for insect and disease control. Check with your local Extension agent for current rates and compounds.

Although hand pollination is the preferred method to fruit setting, natural pollination by bees will work well. Hand pollination allows for a more controlled genetic cross. Do not begin pollinating until the plant has approximately 200 leaves. Initially it is recommended to allow only 4 to 6 pumpkins per plant. Once pumpkins reach volleyball size, trim back to one pumpkin. The more you reduce the competition for nutrients, the greater your success rate will be for achieving a giant size pumpkin.

Because of the size and fast growth of these pumpkins, training vines and root pruning is important. This will prevent stem breakage and splitting. While the pumpkin is basketball size, curve the vine 80 to 90 degrees away from the fruit. About 3 feet out from the fruit, curve the vine back in the general direction it was headed. Clip roots 3 feet out on the vine. This will allow the vine to easily move upward as the pumpkin grows. Pumpkins long in shape tend to push the vine forward, resulting in a kink. If this happens, slide the pumpkin back about 4 to 5 inches – this is usually necessary when the pumpkin is about 300 pounds. Pumpkins round in shape are difficult to rotate without damaging the stem.

To protect the pumpkin from direct sunlight, construct a shade out of burlap or other lightweight material. This will prevent premature hardening of the outer skin and will allow the pumpkin to reach its full genetic potential in terms of physical size.

Be sure to select plant varieties that have the genetics to attain large size. Check seed catalogs and garden centers for possible giant pumpkin seed cultivars.

Pumpkins should be harvested when they have a deep, solid color and the rind is hard. The vines are usually dying back at this time. Cover during a light frost and avoid leaving pumpkins out during a hard freeze to prevent softening.

Best Apples 4 Pie

Esopus Spitzenberg

“Who would put into a pie any apple but Spitzenberg, that had that?” wrote the famed minister Henry Ward Beecher in 1862. A century and a half later, the question stands. Widely considered the most flavorful apple America has ever produced, the pride of New York’s Hudson Valley pushes both sweetness and tartness to an extreme, and infuses your pie with notes of lychee and roses.

Bramley’s Seedling

Too often Americans make their pies with nothing but overly hard apples, which slide away from each other as soon as your fork strikes. The Brits have long understood that you need some glue to hold the thing together, and for more than 200 years their go-to glue has been Bramley’s Seedling. The huge, green, very tart apples look like unripe grapefruits in the tree, but when cooked they melt into a thick pulp that works wonders when combined with a firmer apple. (Honorable Mention: McIntosh or Cortland.)


Love it or leave it. Some people think this treasure of Sonoma County (where you can still find the Gravenstein Apple Fair every August) is too soft for pie, but others believe its unmistakable berry-apple fragrance is the very harbinger of fall. Pick them early for pie.

Belle de Boskoop

This tart and snappy Dutch belle makes me think of some ruddy barmaid in a nineteenth-century tavern: Plump and rustic, with an acid tongue, she can be awfully saucy in her youth, but as she mellows with age, her sweetness begins to shine through. She will win you over in pies, crisps, and strudel, where her firmness is divine and her zippy edge keeps things lively. (Honorable Mention: Any russet, such as Golden Russet, Roxbury Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, or Zabergau Reinette.)

Northern Spy

Your grandmother may well have insisted on Northern Spy for her pies. She was right. This early-1800s star is one of the few apples that can stand alone in pies. Bright and lively, firm yet tender-skinned, it’s experiencing a well-deserved resurgence as a new generation of bakers discovers that no other apple can match its bag of tricks.

Pink Lady

Not all modern apples fall flat in pies. Pink Lady is super-crisp when eaten fresh and nearly as crisp in pies, where its rosy hue and sweet-tart balance work wonders. No peeling, please.

Perennials By Blooming Period

Here is a list of perennials by their flowering time table;

March Blooming Perennials

  • Winter Aconite–Eranthis hyemalis
  • Myrtle Spurge–Euphorbia myrsinites
  • Snowdrops–Galanthus nivalis
  • Christmas Rose–Helleborus niger
  • Lenten Rose–Helleborus orientalis
  • Bloodroot–Sanguinaria canadensis
  • Spring Beauty–Claytonia virginica

April Blooming Perennials

  • Bugleweed–Ajuga reptans
  • Basket of Gold–Aurinia saxatilis
  • Pasque Flower–Pulsatilla vulgaris
  • Rock Cress–Arabis caucasica
  • Purple Rockcress–Aubretia deltoidea
  • Glory-of-the-Snow–Chionodoxa luciliae
  • Old-fashioned Bleeding Heart–Dicentra spectabilis
  • Fringed bleeding Heart–Dicentra eximia
  • Candytuft–Iberis sempervirens
  • Netted Iris–Iris reticulata
  • Grape Hyacinth–Muscari armeniacum, M. botryoides
  • Creeping Phlox–Phlox subulata
  • Squill–Scilla siberica
  • Early Tulips, Narcissus, and Hyacinth
  • Virginia Bluebells–Mertensia virginica
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit–Arisaema triphyllum
  • Marsh Marigold–Caltha palustris
  • Trout Lily–Erythronium americanum
  • Prairie Smoke–Geum triflorum

May Blooming Perennials

  • Lady’s Mantle–Alchemilla mollis
  • Common Columbine–Aquilegia canadensis
  • Columbine–Aquilegia x hybrida
  • Sea Pink–Armeria maritima
  • Blue False Indigo–Baptisia australis
  • Mountain Bluet–Centaurea montana
  • Snow-in-Summer–Cerastium tomentosum
  • Delphinium–Delphinium x elatum
  • Cottage Pink–Dianthus plumarius
  • Gas Plant–Dictamnus albus
  • Leopard’s Bane–Doronicum orientale
  • Peony–Paeonia hybrids
  • Oriental Poppy–Papaver orientale
  • Wild Geranium–Geranium maculatum
  • Wild Ginger–Asarum canadense
  • Golden Alexander–Zizia aurea
  • Wild Sweet William–Phlox divaricata

June Blooming Perennials

  • Astilbe–Astilbe spp.
  • Silver Mound Artemisia–Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’
  • Silver King Artemisia–Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Silver King’
  • Carpathian Harebell–Campanula carpatica
  • Peach-Leaf Bellflower–Campanula persicifolia
  • Blanket Flower–Gaillardia x grandiflora
  • Coral Bells–Heuchera spp.
  • Rock Soapwort–Saponaria ocymoides
  • Pincushion Flower–Scabiosa caucasica
  • Stokes Aster–Stokesia laevis
  • Spiderwort–Tradescantia x andersoniana
  • Veronica–Veronica spicata, V. longifolia
  • Pale Purple Coneflower–Echinacea pallida
  • American Bellflower–Campanula Americana

July Blooming Perennials

  • Fern-leaf Yarrow–Achillea filipendulina
  • Common Yarrow–Achillea millefolium
  • Blackberry Lily–Belamcanda chinensis
  • Bugbane–Cimicifuga simplex
  • Tickseed–Coreopsis grandiflora
  • Threadleaf Coreopsis–Coreopsis verticillata
  • Purple Coneflower–Echinacea purpurea
  • Globe Thistle–Echinops ritro
  • Sea Holly–Eryngium amethystinum
  • Babys Breath–Gypsophila paniculata
  • Helen’s Flower, Sneezeweed–Helenium autumnale
  • Sunflower Heliopsis–Heliopsis helianthoides
  • Hibiscus–Hibiscus moscheutos
  • Hosta, Plantain Lily–Hosta spp.
  • Blazing Star–Liatris spicata
  • Sea Lavender–Limonium latifolium
  • Cardinal Flower–Lobelia cardinalis
  • Bee Balm–Monarda didyma
  • Russian Sage–Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • Garden Phlox–Phlox paniculata
  • False Dragonhead–Physostegia virginiana
  • Butterfly Weed–Asclepias tuberosa
  • Rattlesnake Master–Eryngium yuccifolium
  • Great Blue Lobelia–Lobelia siphilitica
  • Culver-Root–Veronicastrum virginicum
  • Pink Turtlehead–Chelone glabra
  • Balloonflower–Platycodon grandiflorus
  • Perennial Blue Salvia–Salvia x superba

August Blooming Perennials

  • Monkshood–Aconitum napellus
  • New York Aster–Aster novii-belgii
  • New England Aster–Aster novae-angliae
  • Leadwort–Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
  • Garden Mum–Dendranthema x grandiflora
  • Red Hot Poker–Kniphofia hybrids
  • Joe-Pye Weed–Eupatorium maculatum
  • Closed Gentian–Gentiana andressii
  • Black-Eyed Susan–Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
  • Showy Sedum–Hylotelephium x ‘Autumn Joy’

September-October Blooming Perennials

  • Monkshood–Aconitum
  • Aster–Aster
  • Coreopsis–Coreopsis
  • Bleeding Heart–Dicentra eximia
  • Purple Coneflower–Echinacea
  • Globe Thistle–Echinops
  • Blanket Flower–Gaillardia
  • Sneezeweed–Helenium
  • Phlox–Phlox
  • Balloon Flower–Platycodon
  • Black-Eyed Susan–Rudbeckia
  • Sedum–Hylotelephium