September 2016

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5 Steps to Successful Fall Planting

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1 – Watch the weather and make a fall planting plan

Just like in summer, new plantings are tender, and harsh weather can lead to failure. Try to plant in the morning, and avoid planting when daytime temperatures are supposed to be high (anyone remember the intense heat wave a few Septembers back?). Overcast days are best, as humidity tends to be higher and the sun won’t zap the leaves of your new plants.

September is the time to plan, and late September through mid November is your ideal window for planting. Take this time to visit nurseries (many of which have fall sales) to collect your specimens. Spend time in your yard and garden to identify the best places for planting. What’s your sun exposure like, and what do each of your new plants require? We like to draw a map and make a detailed planting plan before we begin to make sure every plant gets what it needs.

2 – “Mud in” your new fall plantings and mulch over perennials

Place each new planting in its hole, and water two or three times before you start adding soil (ideally a mix of fresh dirt and compost). Once you’ve completely buried your new plant, water again a few times to get the soil nice and saturated. This helps rid the soil of any air pockets, which aids in overwintering.

A bit later in fall as they begin to die back, give your perennials a good mulching over with a nice thick layer of mulch. This further insulates them from the winter and ensures that they’ll come back healthy next spring.

Crocosmia - Fall Planting

Crocosmia makes a colorful showing in late summer and early fall.

3 – Get your veggies

Don’t abandon that veggie patch! Short-season, cool weather crops are great for fall planting. Plus, waiting to harvest root vegetables until mid-late fall makes them taste sweeter. It’s true. Some of our favorites for early September planting are radishes, heirloom lettuces, spinach and rainbow chard.

4 – Don’t forget the bulbs

Spring-blooming bulbs need a cool dormancy period in order to thrive and produce in the spring – making it essential to include them on your fall planting plan. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a great selection of hardy bulbs. Double check your zone before planting, and then get bulbs in the ground so that they can become established, go dormant, and give you a fantastic show of color come springtime. Since bulbs are amongst the first plants to come up and bloom in the spring, We like to put bulbs along borders, and in places where they’ll get a lot of attention.

5 – Think big

If you’ve ever lost a tree, you might be hesitant to make the investment in your landscape – especially since, as plants shed their leaves and perennials die back (in the case of deciduous plants), you won’t have the immediate gratification that you’d have in spring or summer. Put in the time to plant trees and shrubs in fall so that you can reap the benefits come next summer. Success rates are much higher this time of year and maintenance required is lower (since the rain and cool temperatures keep roots moist), and so this is a great time to invest in your landscape.

Dream big! Imagine the all of the possibilities available to you if you follow through with fall planting – harvesting fruit trees, shading under a conifer, cutting your own gorgeous flowers and more await. And if you plant in fall, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors for years to come.

The Versatile Mum

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When fall arrives, it’s hard not to regret the passing of all the summer blooms we love so much: pompon dahlias, Shasta daisies, African daisies, little zinnias, asters, coreopsis, and calendulas.

But take heart, for the fall garden offers all these flower shapes from just one plant, the chrysanthemum. Hundreds of hardy cultivars provide an array of colors and bloom shapes, making mums the divas of the autumn garden. The blooms last for weeks, not days, and the sheer number of flowers per plant will convince anyone that this flower really likes to show off. Add the mum’s impressionistic abilities to its longevity, and you have a plant that pulls its weight in the garden.

If you live in a climate with mild winters, try these cold-season flowering plants.

Because of their tight, mounded habit and stunning bloom cover, garden mums are perfect for mass plantings. To get the maximum effect from far away, stick to only one or two colors. Another possibility is to arrange a gradual transition of related colors. Look around your yard to see what colors would best complement the existing landscape.

If you decorate for fall with pumpkins and gourds, choose orange, bronze, yellow, and creamy white mums. If you have a lot of evergreen plants that provide a backdrop of varying shades of green foliage, try bright pinks, lavenders, pure whites, or reds. With such bold colors, a large grouping of mums can excite even the most drab of fall landscapes.

Mums in Containers

Garden mums also make great container plants. They’re just right for popping into a clay pot, lining up in a row in a window box, or placing in the center of a mixed container with trailing foliage plants all around. Many landscape plants can provide a backdrop for groupings of mums. For texture, choose ornamental grasses or the neon purple berries of the beautyberry shrub (Callicarpa). You also can pair mums with smoke tree (Cotinus), variegated sedum, the deciduous dwarf Fothergilla gardenii, or almost any conifer.

To get the most from your mums, choose cultivars according to their bloom times. It also helps to coordinate bloom time with the length of fall in your location. Most garden mums will withstand a light fall frost, but finding the right cultivars will provide the longest possible amount of pleasure.

Annual or Perennial?

Mums aren’t as expensive as many perennials, so if you choose to, you can plant them as annuals without worrying that you’ve spent too much money on something that might not live more than one season. If you’re an impulse buyer, you’ll probably see pots of colorful mums this fall and not be able to resist.

Fall planting lessens the chance of winter survival, however, since roots don’t have time to establish themselves. If you want something more permanent and are willing to provide proper care such as mulching and pinching to encourage compact growth and more blooms, plant mums in the spring and allow them to get established in the garden. This will improve their chances of overwintering and reblooming the next year. Someplants will even produce a few blooms in the spring before being pinched for fall flowers.

Hardy vs. Florist Mums

Florist (or cutting) mums and hardy (or garden) mums come from the same original parent — a golden-yellow daisylike mum from China. Today’s hybrids in both categories are the results of endless crosses between several species from China and Japan. The result of such hybridization performed over hundreds of years is different types of mums that perform for two distinct purposes.

Florist mums are large-flower plants with many possible bloom forms, from quilled to pompon to spider and more. Grown in greenhouses and used only as indoor plants, florist mums produce few, if any, underground stolens, which are necessary if the mum is to survive cold weather. Florist mums planted outside are most likely being used as short-term bedding plants that will be removed when the blooms are spent. You can plant a potted florist mum you receive as a gift, and it may grow for the summer, but it will not survive the winter, no matter how much protection you give it. Garden mums, on the other hand, produce underground stolens and can survive cold better. Most garden mums are perennials in Zones 5 to 9 and much tougher than florist types. Some cultivars are less hardy than others and can be killed by an early spring frost.

Whether you’re looking for a quick splash of color or a fixture for your border, mums are the pick for a fabulous fall.

Growing Mums

When it comes time to plant mums, consider these factors:

Location. Choose a spot that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Plants that don’t get enough sunlight will be tall and leggy and produce fewer, smaller flowers.

Soil preparation. Mums thrive in well-drained soil. Heavy clay soil should be amended. If your yard is soggy after the slightest rain, grow mums in raised beds with friable soil for good root growth.

If the soil is too dense, add compost and prepare to a depth of 8-12 inches for best performance. Mums’ roots are shallow, and they don’t like competition. Plant mums about 1 inch deeper than they were in the nursery pot, being careful with the roots as you spread them.

Trim off the previous year’s stems as soon as the new spring growth begins to show.

Watering. Water newly planted mums thoroughly, and never let them wilt. After they are established, give mums about an inch of water per week. When bottom leaves look limp or start to turn brown, water more often. Avoid soaking the foliage, which encourages disease.

Fertilizer. Plants set out in spring should get a 5-10-10 fertilizer once or twice a month until cooler weather sets in. Don’t fertilize plants set out in fall as annuals, but plants you hope to overwinter should get high-phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root growth.

Overwintering. Prepare mums for winter after the first hard frost. Mulch up to 4 inches with straw or shredded hardwood. Fill in around the entireplant, spreading well between branches. Pinch off dead blooms to clean up the plant, but leave branches intact. Mums have a better chance of surviving if you wait to prune old stems until spring. As soon as the weather warms, pull away mulch to allow new shoots to pop up.

Dividing. Mums grown as perennials need to be divided every couple of years. Divide in the spring after the last hard frost and after you see new growth starting. Dig up the plant in one piece and separate outer pieces from the center with a clean sharp spade or large knife. Replant the outer portions into a rejuvenated bed, and discard the original center of the plant.

Pests. You may notice aphids, leafhoppers, or spider mites, but they are not likely to harm the plant.

Pinching Mums for Better Bloom

The key to those full, rounded domes of blooms that you associate with mums is pinching to create more branching and keep plants compact. Don’t hold back — just a few minutes here and there will reward you with a thick, solid-looking plant.

If you’ve bought large, full plants in the fall, they have already been pinched and are ready for planting. Young spring plants will need pinching for maximum bloom and best plant shape.

Start pinching as soon as you see a good flush of buds. Pinch about half of the tender new growth at the top of the shoot; choose some stems with buds and some without. Repeat the process with every 3 to 5 inches of growth (about every two to four weeks) until July 4. Stopping then ensures you will get good bud formation and blooms in fall.

Varieties to Look For

‘Blizzard’ This extra-late variety offers the largest (2-1/2-inch) and whitest flower available in a daisy garden mum. It develops into an almost ball-shaped plant covered with bright white blooms over extra-dark green foliage.

‘Bold Felicia’ The early blooms are an unbelievable neon-hot pink daisy with a bright yellow center disk.

‘Carrie’ A hard-to-find two-tone decorative flower that is a dark red-bronze in the center with golden-yellow outer petals. This extra-late cultivar shows none of the discoloration of aging petals seen in some older varieties.

‘Melissa’ This extra-late mum blooms through late October and was bred for excellent flower form, flower color, color retention, and growth habit. The bright lavender-rose flowers combine beautifully with ‘Erica’, ‘Ingrid’, and ‘Taffy’.

‘Vicki’ Another bright “wow” of a plant, these decorative blooms are rich orange with a darker orange center. They have awesome color and a full spreading plant habit.

‘Zesty Jean’ An unusual pastel peach-coral color, the early decorative flowers are more fully petaled and retain their color longer than others of this hue.

Flower Shapes

Mums come in an array of bloom forms. The most common bloom shapes are:

Decorative
Long, tightly overlapping petals. They can be either incurve (where petals curve up and in toward the flower center) or reflex (where petals curve out and down, away from the flower center).

Pompon
Small, globe-shape flowers that are petal-packed

Single or Daisy
One row of long petals around a flat center disk.

Types of Mums

Anemone
One or more rows of single flat petals topped with a raised center of tiny disk florets. The florets are usually a darker color.

Semidouble
Two or three rows of long petals around the center disk.

Single Quilled
The single daisy type, but with tubular petals. This is different from the full quill flower form, which is almost always seen only in florist mums.

Photo and Article Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Tips for Closing Your Pool

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Winterizing your pool may seem complicated, but with a little preparation, it can be a very simple and pain-free process.Check out these top 10 tips to help you easily close the pool for the season!close pool or spa

1. Begin Winterizing One Week Before Closing Your Pool
One week prior to closing your pool, add a phosphate remover to help keep algae out.

2. Brush and Vacuum To Remove All Debris
Cleaning your pool before closing prevents algae and makes your spring opening even easier.

3. Manage Your Water Level
FREEZING – Water should be 4-6 inches below: skimmer (vinyl-lined) or tile line (plaster)
NON-FREEZING – Water should be filled to the top, almost to the point of overflowing.

4. Balance the Pool Chemistry
Measure water balance using a test kit. Total Alkalinity should be between 80-120 ppm, pH level should be between 7.4-7.6

5. Shock and Chlorinate Your Pool

Shocking kills any bacteria that might linger in your pool during the winter

6. Backwash Your Filter
Allow the pump to run for a full cycle before backwashing and chemically cleaning your filter

7. Drain Pool Lines and Add Antifreeze (for freezing temperatures only)
This prevents the costly repairs that come from burst of damaged pipes

8. Install Air Pillow
Inflate the air pillow using an air pump and place in the center of the pool

9. Install A Safety Cover, Winter Cover or Leaf Net
Protect your pool and family with a secure cover

10. Monitor Chemical Balance Monthly
Using a test kit, routinely check water chemistry.