Hayrides. Pumpkins. Apple Picking. The fall season is almost upon us. But for many, it's not really autumn until the leaves turn bright colors of yellow, red and orange.

Many factors play into a successful fall foliage season in New Jersey, said Jason Grabowski, professor or urban forestry in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.

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NJ fall foliage (Photo Credit: Jason Grabowski)

Healthy leaves will give healthy color, Grabowski said. If there's plenty of water, as New Jersey has seen in the past few weeks thanks to the heavy rains, then there will be a slight lengthening of the growing season.

Leaves will start turning color when they get their signals from the environment that it's time to shut down and start shedding.

Water plays a big role in how bright leaf colors will be. But it's the photo period or the amount of sunlight per day that also determines the color. Grabowski said no matter how wet or dry it is, it's the photo period that starts the fall color process.

He said if it's really dry, leaves will start turning color early because they're petering out. But it's not usually a nice color.

NJ fall foliage (Photo Credit: Jason Grabowski)

"With the rain we've had and the water in the system, we should have really vibrant colors based on the fact that we have healthy leaves going in," Grabowski said.

According to AccuWeather, the record-setting rain that Ida unloaded over New Jersey, brought with it well above-normal rainfall. That could limit the chances that leaves will overachieve this fall.

NJ fall foliage (Photo Credit: Jason Grabowski)

Fall foliage is really going to be driven by temperature because the amount of sunlight will be pretty much uniformed across the state, he added. New Jersey is right in that period of time when the leaves are starting to transition and move toward the dropping of the leaves.

During the process, he said leaves won't transition from green to yellow. The green leaves will get less green, then fade some more until the yellow appears. That's because plants stop building chlorophyll as daylight gets shorter and temperatures start dropping.

With elevation and the types of trees species up in the forests, the bright, vibrant leaf colors will probably start popping in the northwest part of New Jersey, then coming south and spreading east in the next couple of weeks, Grabowski said.

NJ leaves turning colors for the fall (Photo Credit: Jason Grabowski)

AccuWeather's report states that while there will be bright fall colors in the Northeast this season, they may emerge a week or two behind the typical peak of fall foliage due to surge in mild temperatures.

"If we have cool, sunny days, you'll get better and better reds. So, if you like the reds and you like the oranges, you'll really want nice bright sunny days with really, really cool nights," Grabowski said.

So where does Grabowski like to see fall foliage? He said he's a fan of the Delaware Water Gap Recreational area. He said there's a lot to see and with the elevation, people can look out over the valleys and check out the different colors as the hills undulating under you.

Healthy forests are no accident, he said. It takes a lot of management to manage an ecosystem like that.

"I want to thank our state forestry services for the people that are out there doing some of that work that we never see that results in our ability to have some of these beautiful, natural areas where we can watch the fall foliage," he said.

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