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Get most out of mums with these tips

Tex Lu of West Sacramento won several awards at the 2018 Sacramento Chrysanthemum Show including best three of a kind with this Mount Shasta trio. (Photos courtesy Sacramento Chrysanthemum Society.)

Advice from Sacramento chrysanthemum expert on how to make mums look their best

Mums love Sacramento. Last weekend's Sacramento Chrysanthemum Show at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center offered abundant proof with hundreds of stunning examples.

The large assortment entered by West Sacramento's Tex Lu, whom I interviewed two years ago, was especially impressive. Lu grows hundreds of exhibition mums, all from cuttings in 1-gallon pots.
It's not too late to add mums to your own landscape or help the ones you may already have thrive throughout November.

How do you get your mums to look their best? Here are tips from Lu and the Sacramento Chrysanthemum Society:

* Mums have shallow roots. They need water. During dry fall weather, they require extra irrigation. Planted in pots, they tend to dry out quickly. Lu uses drip irrigation for his mums. During summer heat while the plants are growing rapidly, he gives them five minutes every day. In fall, keep their soil evenly moist. (Mulch helps.)

* Mums need good drainage. If planting in containers, use a soil-less mix rich in perlite.

* Mums appreciate feeding. Lu recommends Osmocote slow-release fertilizer. He adds it to the planting mix when transplanting. After that, he feeds his plants once a month with high-phosphate starter fertilizer, providing trace minerals and nutrients for big blooms.

* How do you get mums to bloom in November? Lu transplants his rooted cuttings in February, April and July to guarantee blooms in fall, no matter the summer weather. Pinching back plants in July helps prompt their internal bloom calendar.
Among the honored flowers at the show were this Goldfinger spider mum,
grown by Tex Lu, and this exotic Lilo Galleon mum, grown by Sharon Peterson.

* Want bigger blooms? Pinch off side buds as the plant grows so it concentrates its energy on producing one big flower on one strong stem. That's better for cutting as well as exhibition.

* Mums need support. As plants grow, use bamboo sticks or other supports to hold up those huge flower heads.

* Mums make excellent cut flowers. They'll last longer in the vase if you remove foliage below the water line.

* Enjoy instant color now. If you missed the society's sale, mums in bud or bloom are available at many local nurseries. Transplant them into slightly larger containers with a couple of tablespoons of high-phosphate fertilizer. They'll look good and keep blooming through Thanksgiving and into December.

* Lu’s best tip for novice growers? Join a mum club.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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