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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 March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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