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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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