Autumn Mums Spark Color Transitions

10/20/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers, Plant Care

Courtyards, front doors, and patios beg for pumpkins and perennial mums, possibly a scarecrow or two. Decorating our homes is more than making ready for costume parties and the candy fest that follows. Autumn decorations are for the enjoyment of homeowners, their neighbors and friends. Ten dollars of decorative pumpkins and twenty dollars of mums offer more pleasure than a $30 cut flower bouquet and can be enjoyed for weeks rather than days.

Cheryl Mums– Low maintenance, vigorous, winter hardy are just a few of the outstanding characteristics of this larger than life group of chrysanthemums. The dome of deep two-toned decorative blossoms is long-lived in our area. Year after year the plants bloom in the autumn garden or seasonal hedge.

During the first growing season their size will be comparable to regular garden mums, but by the next season they will be double in size due to their abundant rhizome production that serves to overwinter carbohydrates. This unique trait gives rise to many more stems the following spring that result in the large, dense-with-blooms, fall mum. Easy to care for, too: No pinching required for these mums to look thick and full! Mix orange-hued ‘Spicy Cheryl’ with the ‘Jolly Cheryl’ reds for an exhilarating display of autumn colors.

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The chill from week before last’s cold front is no longer with us, but it was a good taste of what lies ahead. Landscapes and gardens are in transition with beautiful colors, mild temperatures, and soil that is warm and moist. It’s time to get after those small projects in our gardens and yards.

Mice are really active this fall. They can wreak havoc inside and out of our homes, and they are difficult to spot until their damage is done. Like humans, outside critters are beginning to get cold and are searching for warm spaces to spend the winter. Mice have attempted to reside in the cabinets of my built-in grill. They have been active in our hot tub casing and in the storage bin where those expensive furniture cushions are kept. Even the garden’s butternut squash have been nibbled on by these pesky critters. As a result, war has been declared at the Lain casa!

Last night a gopher-gassing bomb was strategically placed in an open hole that was evidence of a family of rats or mice. Although rodents return when the gas has cleared, because I thought I had targeted a nest, the gas may have proved lethal. My fingers are crossed! Also, because we have dogs and care about birds, I was careful to use only a zinc phosphide –based poison. This bait is far less toxic to pets than a cyanide poison. However, I never use or store bait where dogs might have access to it.

Gopher Tox by Bonide is my bait of choice. All of my outdoor cabinets, casings, and storage bins have a tablespoon of Gopher Tox in their interior corners.

Snakes also were affected by our recent cold front and are migrating right now. My daughters and I were sitting down after dinner for a father-daughter Netflix experience when one of the girls lets out a SCREAM! A small garter snake had climbed the furniture and was watching the flick with us. He was captured and released back into the gardens and we went on with the show. Customers have been sharing similar stories of rattlers warming themselves under the garage refrigerator or on a driveway.

Snake Stopper is an easy, affordable, and highly effective means of keeping snakes from entering our gardens and our homes. I have sprinkled the organic granules as a one-foot barrier at door entrances; snakes of any kind will not cross it. It can be used in crawl spaces and at garden walls. It is safe to use around children and pets.
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I’m busy picking the last of our basil and cilantro. These tropical plants will not grow when the nighttime temperatures drop below 45 degrees. Don’t worry about rosemary, oregano, tarragon, garlic, and the other herbal plants. They enjoy the cool nights.
All the squashes have been picked and the plants pulled from the soil. This year powdery mildew was a problem in my garden, so these plants will not be composted. This gardener would rather throw diseased plants into the dumpster than risk reinfection next planting season. I only compost clean, healthy, bug free plant material.

The peppers also have been picked and their plants pulled along with the tomato plants that stopped producing. I also have pulled summer annuals from my flowerbeds and containers. The goal is to free up space to plant winter bloomers and vegetables before the frigid temperatures come to stay. “Vegetable Food’ will be turned into the soil prior to planting winter lettuce and spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Plant by the end of this month and you will be harvesting fresh produce through the end of the year.
Until next week, see you at the garden center.