Category: November 2018

Fall Color of Trees

Who doesn’t love fall colors? Part of the allure of fall foliage is color variation. There are trees that turn red, purple, yellow, orange and brown.

Specific plant pigments determine individual colors. Foliage gets its normal green color from chlorophyll, the substance that captures the energy of the sun. Other pigments produce fall colors. Reds and purples are caused by anthocyanins, yellows by xanthophylls, and oranges by a combination of carotenes and xanthophylls. Browns are the result of tannins present in the leaf. Most of these substances are present throughout the growing season but are masked by the green color produced by chlorophyll. Anthocyanins are the exception and are produced after the chlorophyll is destroyed in the fall.

If you have ever seen pictures of New England in the fall, you have probably wondered why trees in Kansas usually do not color as well. This difference is partly because of the tree species prevalent in New England. Certain oaks and maples naturally produce good color. Coloring also is influenced by the weather.

Warm, sunny days and cool nights are ideal for good color. The sunny days encourage photosynthesis and, thus, sugar accumulation in the leaves. As fall progresses, each leaf develops an abscission layer at the base of the petiole, or leaf stem, that prevents these sugars from being transported down the trunk to the roots for storage. This high sugar content in the leaves produces more intense colors. Cloudy days and warm nights prevent some of the sugar accumulation in the leaves and results in less vibrant colors.

Weather during other parts of the growing season also can have an effect. Heavy rains in the early spring or hot, dry weather during the summer can both have a deleterious effect on fall color.

The length of time a tree maintains fall color also depends on weather. Reds, yellows and oranges are short-lived when trees undergo frosts and freezes.

By: Cassie Homan

Extension Agents – Neighbors You Should Get to Know

Curious how Extension became a staple part of your community? Nora Rhoades discusses the history of Extension in Kansas and the Post Rock District on our blog. Learn why extension agents are neighbors you should get to know!

We’re here to help you in the Post Rock District! Learn more about your Post Rock Extension District’s Agent Team, and reach out to us at your local extension office in Beloit, Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne, and Smith Center. We are excited to serve you!

By:  Nora Rhoades

Keep Holiday Meals Safe

Whether it is a simple meal for two, or a large gathering with a buffet, food safety is a priority at any meal, and especially at the holidays. Nobody wants the gift of foodborne illness!

Are you the host for the holiday meal? Reduce your stress by starting a list now to plan the location, food and recipes, activities and games, and what your guests could bring. Put it in a timeline or on a calendar to stay on schedule.

Are you buying a fresh or frozen turkey? If you choose fresh, be sure to place an order with your grocer or butcher shop and pick it up 1-2 days before the meal. Frozen turkeys can be purchased any time and stored in the freezer. Pay attention to grocery sales to save some money.

Frozen turkeys are best thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. In the refrigerator, plan on at least five days for a 20 pound turkey. In cold water, allow about 30 minutes per pound of turkey.

Do you only have one oven?  Use a slow cooker for hot dishes. A table top roaster oven can be used like a regular oven for many items. Even electric pressure cookers can cook up some tasty dishes! Some items, such as dessert or bread can be made ahead and frozen.

When cooking the turkey, remember that 325 degrees F is the lowest oven temperature to safely cook turkey. Use a food thermometer to be sure it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Learn more at

By:  Ashley Svaty

Fall Garden Clean-Up

You may be tempted to walk away from your garden after the first frost, but doing a simple clean up can greatly impact your garden next spring. It is important to get rid of leftover plant debris in annual flower beds and vegetable gardens to reduce the risk of pests and diseases.

Watch this video to learn more:

By: Cassie Homan

Experience a Low-Stress Holiday Season

As you gear up for the holiday season, take a moment to think ahead about possible stressors. Explore and practice healthy management strategies. Positive strategies can help you find more enjoyment throughout the holiday season and limit the ways stress exhausts your health and wellness. Contact Nora Rhoades at 785-346-2521 or to discuss your experience and to explore healthy strategies that can work for you!

By:  Nora Rhoades

Don’t underestimate the power of handwashing!

Germs can enter your body through your nose, mouth, and eyes and make us sick.  Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds removes germs from hands and helps prevent sickness. The CDC states that studies have shown handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sickness and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu. Handwashing helps prevent the spread of germs that can be transferred to others by dirty door knobs, tables, toys, etc.

Proper handwashing is done by wetting your hands with clean running water. Next, scrub all surfaces of your hands for 20 seconds then rinse your hands under clean, running water.  The last step is to dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry them.

Take the time to wash your hands properly

  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • After touching garbage
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After using the restroom, changing diapers, or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After touching an animal, animal food or treats, animal cages, or animal feces.

For more information and a video demonstration of how to wash your hands visit:

 By:  Ashley Svaty

Preserving Garden Tools

Now that the gardening season has come to an end, it’s time to tuck your tools away for the winter.  Hoes, shovels and other common garden tools often have wooden handles that can deteriorate over time. Storing tools in a protected location can slow that process, but normal use will still expose the tools to the elements. The end of the season is a good time to clean up and protect the handles so they will last for many years. Weathering can raise the grain of wood, resulting in splinters. A light sanding can smooth the handle. Follow that with a light application of wood preservative, linseed oil or polyurethane to protect the wood. Wipe off any excess after a few minutes as oil-based products can attract dirt. Cleaning any dirt off metal parts and coating with a light application of oil can prevent rust. Good tools are expensive. A few minutes of care after the season is over can help preserve them for many years to come.

By: Cassie Homan