Garden clippings for September 15, 2018
Mums are the boss of the fall garden. That’s a good thing, because despite all good efforts, some of my garden’s annual flowers are looking worse for ware. I’ll add a few mums here and there to fill the weak spots and introduce a pop of new colour. Mums are inexpensive, available everywhere and their bright colours pack a sizable punch.
Mum buyers will be tempted to pick the fullest, brightest and most wide-open mums, but unless you are decorating for this weekend’s wedding, you would be wise to pick the ones with oodles of tight buds that are not yet open. Mums are designed to flower for about a month and if you buy mums that are already fully open, you will cut down on your days of enjoyment.
When it comes to mums, the tighter the buds, the later the bloom, and the later the bloom, the longer the bloom. Mums are happier growing in cool October than in warm September.
To get the most out of your potted mums, you only need to remember one thing: water. Unlike many annuals such as Impatiens and Coleus that tell you when they are low on water, mums will deal with thirst quietly by slowly drying up without wilting. Remember that potted mums are just like annual plants growing in containers which want water ever day or two unless they get rain from above.
If you want to ease the need for frequent watering, take the mum out of its grower’s pot and plant it in the garden or in a larger container.
Don’t bother adding fertilizer because that job has been carefully done by the grower.
The question is often asked: “Are mums perennials and if I planted them in the ground, will they survive the winter and grow again next year?”
The answer is both yes and no. Mums are indeed hardy and should be able to handle Southwestern Ontario’s cold winters. But in the last few years, mums have been bred for colour and performance rather than winter hardiness. Keeping a potted mum through winter might be difficult.
Gardeners up for the challenge should remove the mum out of the grower’s pot and plant the mum in the garden today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Mums need lots of time to establish their roots prior to winter. Plant in good soil enriched with compost and bone meal, and water thoroughly. Add mulch at the base of the plant to keep the roots cool and damp and to provide soil insulation for winter.
At the end of November, before we get too much frost, cut off the spent flowers, cover the mum with a good layer of mulch, leaves, straw or anything that might give protection from deep freeze. In March as soon as weather warms up remove the insulation and say a prayer or two.