Weatherford Democrat

Local News

November 24, 2013

ASK A MASTER GARDENER: A sweet explanation for red fall colors

Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to pcmgaquestions@gmail.com. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.

For years I have watched this tree on Tin Top Road, and it always turns beautiful colors on one side only. Why does it do this?

This is an interesting question, and my best response is an educated guess. The red fall color relates to the amount of sugar trapped in the leaves when the abscission layer forms where the leaf attaches to the twig.

I have read that stressed trees will generate an increase in sugar production. Notice that the red leaves are on the side of the tree facing the road. There are probably fewer roots on that side due to soil compaction under the road. There is also increased heat and pollution from that road.

All of these stressors will affect sugar production. Maybe that side of this Black Jack Oak tree always generates more sugars, and therefore more is trapped giving the extra fall color on one side of the tree.

Special thanks to Courtney Blevins, CF, CA, Texas A&M Forest Service, Fort Worth.

How do I know if I have well-drained soil?

Well-drained soil is a must in order for many plants to survive.  To test your soil, dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep. Fill with water. After it drains, fill it again. If the water is gone within 24 hours, you have well-drained soil. If not, you likely have a high percentage of clay in your soil.

You will need to amend this soil before planting by adding organic matter and/or expanded shale. If your soil is very shallow and you hit solid rock, you will need to use raised beds. Once you have amended your soil, you can test again for adequate drainage using the same method.

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