By Richard Heller
In a typical Northeaster fall, the maples will lead off with the dogwoods with color and falling leaves and the oak trees hold on until the end of the season. This year many oaks are dumping their leaves hard and fast with the warm weather while many smaller maples are holding on to their leaves.
Some oak trees still have green leaves while the exact same variety across the street have dumped 80% of their leaves early.
Why such a huge difference?
The big variable this fall is water. We have had an unusually low amount of precipitation in the last three months and the weather then has warmed up—driving greater root development for many plants. Oak trees that have had good water sources have held their leaves while those in tighter spaces with less available water have dumped theirs. This is really unusual and does not bode well for many of the oaks in the area.
Don't get me wrong, we wont see “fall out” from the dry conditions right away. Dry conditions show up a year or even two year later in dead branches and weakened root zones.
Why are the smaller maples holding on better? Many of these have shallower roots and are picking off water from lawn irrigation systems.
It is time to winterize these systems but no rush on this as we will have another couple of warm weeks with no true cold weather predicted until the second week of December. If your irrigation system is off, your lawn is still growing and giving it some supplemental water with a hose and sprinkler might be a good idea. If you have not fertilized your shrubs you still have time to do this with the extended warmth and they will appreciate it as their roots are growing in this unseasonably warm November.