Falling Into Autumn

Falling Into Autumn
By Rodney Kemerer, Member of the Friends of Robinson Gardens

My brain is hardwired to the smells from my childhood. At this time of the year it is the smell of burning leaves. As early as I can remember, growing up in the Midwest and later in Pennsylvania, the smell of burning leaves told my brain that winter was coming. As the first pile of leaves was raked together and then slowly smoldered into flame, the smell permeated the neighborhood. It was the signal to break out the corduroy pants and sweater vests. Fall was always my favorite season -- the closing in, the shutting down, the preparing for winter, never cold enough to be uncomfortable, but it was the warning sign that freezing weather lay ahead.

I have had to re-program my brain for living in California and specifically in a mountain canyon. Now the smell of burning anything results in a sudden panic, a threat and danger. "Fall" has been replaced by "Fire Season." What was once a smell that made me excited for Halloween and winter holidays now causes me to run outside and sniff the air like an overachieving bloodhound.

It is remarkable to me that a smell as simple as burning leaves can transform from a feeling of joy to one of terror. East coast vs. West coast. There is nothing else that I can think of that I miss to the same degree. Other smells of Fall still remain unaffected by geography. I love the smell of the furnace the first time it is turned on when the weather is cold enough. The smell of the summer dust burning off the furnace is reassuring. It only happens once a year, like the first frost. You can only smell it the first time you turn on the furnace, then you have to wait another year. It is like the furnace waking up from a long sleep to then begin its winter job. I also love that cold crisp thick air you first notice early in the morning when you go outside. The difference is that in the East, it lasted all day. Football weather some call it. In California, it is only in the morning, the sun burns it off well before noon.

There is no breaking out of the snow tires with their deep rubbery aroma or rustling through the hall closet looking for scarves, gloves and the clothes of winter. It has been replaced for me by putting away the Hawaiian Shirts of summer and breaking out the plaid flannel shirts. Not the heavy easy coast plaid wool of Pendleton, but the cottony, lightweight stuff that J. Crew calls "Fall," but does not really feel "Fall."

I've been known to put up Halloween decorations on the first day of September just so I can get two full months of Autumn visuals. I swear that some of my childhood decorations (yes, I still have them) still smell of burning leaves, apple cider and carved pumpkins. A heady mixture that instantly sends me back in time.

Today, when I get nostalgic for the Full Fall Experience, I'll put a handful of dried leaves in the fireplace before building a log fire. I'll light the leaves, close my eyes, take a deep inhale and for a brief moment, fall back to the Autumn of my childhood.

Fall Gardening Tips
By Debby Figoni

Reduce Your Watering
With Fall upon us, the days are getting shorter, and the weather is cooling down. These are both good reasons to cut back on your outdoor watering. The following tips will help your landscape stay healthy while helping you $ave water:

  1. Reduce watering to 2 days per week.
  2. Set your controller to water late at night or early in the morning (the latter is preferred).
  3. Set your controller to water about 8 minutes per station for pop up sprinkler, and 15 to 20 minutes for drip irrigation depending on the type of drip system and the plants being watered.
  4. Watering less often and more minutes helps the water seep down into the soil encouraging deep and healthy roots.
  5. Do not allow sprinkler water run off to flow onto the street or sidewalk.
  6. Put a back-up battery in your controller to save the settings if the electricity goes out.
  7. For more tips and ideas, visit BeWaterWise.com

Gardening To Do List:

  1. Fall is the best time of year to plant new shrubs, bulbs and trees.
  2. Prune your shrubs and trees (some prefer winter for this).
  3. Use your tree's leaf litter as free and organic mulch on top of your soil.
  4. Cover bare soil around your yard with mulch to reduce evaporation and weed growth.
  5. Start a compost bin for the extra leaf litter.


Fall photos of Robinson Gardens by Josh Johnston

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