Meteorologist Dave Epstein is our go-to person for pressing weather questions on everything from winter blizzards to summer droughts. He’s also a horticulturist, meaning he’s an expert on anything that grows leaves and flowers. GBH's Morning Edition asked you, our audience, for your weather and gardening questions, and Dave graciously answered them on the air. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Have a gardening or weather question for meteorologist Dave Epstein? Tweet him @GrowingWisdom, email us at, or text 617-300-2008.

What does the ongoing drought mean for leaf-peeping season?

Temperatures are still in the 90s, but leaves are starting to fall. That’s because of the ongoing drought, Epstein said.

As fall approaches, New England might still get some beautiful, colorful foliage.

“Where there's adequate water or where some of the trees that are more drought tolerant, they will still change,” Epstein said. “Vermont, northern New Hampshire and western Maine are not in the same drought categories that we are. So there's been more rain there, same thing for the Berkshires, even around west of Worcester. There will be great color.”

Some trees may drop their leaves earlier because the drought has them under stress. Others might hold on to their leaves longer because of the warm weather, Epstein said.

What about New England’s apple crop this year? Is it a good season to go apple picking?

Some farms are already offering apple picking, but the drought has made this year’s crops smaller.

“It's going to depend on the local farm that you get the apples from,” Epstein said. If a farm relies solely (or primarily) on rainwater, its crops will probably be smaller. Farms that irrigate might have larger crops.

But a small apple can still be a delicious one.

“Remember, last year was one of the wettest summers we had, so those apples were actually oversize,” Epstein said. “They were really, really big, but they weren't as flavorful because the sugars were kind of watered down.”

What about any other crops that folks may be trying to harvest this fall, like pumpkins or squash?

Crops will be smaller, but more flavorful, Epstein said. Less rain also generally means less disease for fruits and vegetables.

“Things will be flavorful, they'll be wonderful,” Epstein said. “If you asked a farmer if they would they prefer last year or this year, as long as they have irrigation, they're definitely going to prefer the drought because it makes it easier for the plants to grow.”

One local plant to keep your eye on: Tomatoes.

“The tomato crop this year is unbelievable,” Epstein said. “If you can get local tomatoes, they are stunning this year.”

Will I kill my raspberries if I cut them back or transplant them? Also, what would cause some (all ripe) berries to be very small while others are normal size? – Allison from North Hampton, N.H.

Epstein recommended researching your specific type of raspberry plants. If you do cut them back, don’t go too far.

“Cutting them back can be a problem because some raspberries bloom on what's called old wood, so if you cut them back too much, you can cut off next year's flowers,” he said. “My mom did that up on her raspberry patch. She cut them way back and it took a whole year to kind of recharge them, to come up again.”

If you’d like to transplant your raspberries, wait until they go dormant in early fall or right after the snow melts in early spring, Epstein said.

I'm looking to convert a portion of my front lawn to native plants to benefit local ecology. What are a few native plant species you'd recommend for a sunny location? –Ryan from Milton

If you’d like a plant that lays low and looks more like a grassy lawn, at least from a distance, Epstein recommends clover or thyme. They’re good choices for people who stay off their yards — dogs or kids running around them may wear the plants away.

If you’re looking for plants that grow a little higher, try Black-Eyed Susans, Joe-Pye Weed, or members of the Silphium family, sometimes called cup plants. “If you're okay with the taller kind of flowering plants, they're great for pollinators,” Epstein said.

And if you’d like to make the monarch butterflies in your neighborhood happy, plant a large patch of milkweed.

“You can't plant one or two milkweed plants,” Epstein said. “You need a big patch of it for the monarchs to really be happy.”

"The tomato crop this year is unbelievable."
-Meteorologist Dave Epstein

Will my completely dried up yard grass recover from this drought? What can we do this fall to help our yards recover? –Julie

Massachusetts has gotten less rain from April to late August this year than it has during any other growing season going back to 1872. That means a lot of brown lawns, and restrictions on outdoor water use in some cities and towns.

It’s normal for grass to go dormant during long dry periods, Epstein said. If the lawn was strong and healthy before this season, it’s possible that it will still return.

“Grasses go dormant. That's what they do,” Epstein said. “In other parts of the world, this happens all the time. It's just that we're not used to it around here.”

Epstein recommended letting the lawn wake up on its own, though it will likely take until next year.

“Let the natural rains kind of wake it up,” he said. “In order for you to wake it up with water, you'd have to water so much. That's all you'd be doing for the next several weeks. But it should come back if it was healthy going into this.”

One thing to avoid right now: Fertilizer.

“You do not want to fertilize a lawn that is dormant,” Epstein said. “As long as the lawn was healthy and thick and the grass was okay and it's been multiple years that your lawn has been there, it will come back.”