Category Archives: Fall

Getting Your Garden Ready For Winter

Cleaning The Garden In Autumn –

Fall cleanup can make spring gardening a treat instead of a chore. Garden clean up can also prevent pests, weed seeds and diseases from overwintering and causing problems when temperatures warm. Cleaning out the garden for winter also allows you to spend more time on the fun aspects of gardening in spring and provides a clean slate for perennials and vegetables to grow.

THE MUMS ARE COMING! THE MUMS ARE COMING!

Versatile Mums

When fall arrives, it’s hard not to regret the passing of all the summer blooms we love so much. But take heart, because the fall garden offers all the summer flower shapes from just one plant, the chrysanthemum (otherwise known as mums).

Hundreds of types provide a huge variety 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. This plant pulls its weight in the garden.

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 variegated sedum, or almost any conifer.

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. If you plant them in the ground they may or may not make it through the winter to bloom the next fall. The earlier they are planted the better chance the roots have of surviving the winter.

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.

Florist mums (also known as pot mums) are large-flower plants with many possible bloom forms, from quilled to pompom to spider and more.

Grown in greenhouses and used only as indoor plants, pot mum’s are normally only temporary guests in our homes, the duration of their stay usually mirrors how long they are in bloom, which in ideal conditions is around 6 – 8 weeks. Thus, this pot plant is used for splashes of color to brighten up a dull spot or a thoughtful birthday present for a work colleague. After the flowering period is over the plant is normally discarded, because trying to get them to re-bloom indoors is often more hassle than it’s worth, they’re also cheap to buy and therefore simple to replace.

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, 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 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 mulch. Fill in around the entire plant, spreading well between branches. Pinch off dead blooms to clean up the plant, but leave branches intact. These plants 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.

Pinching Plants for Better Bloom

The key to those full, rounded domes of blooms that you associate with plants you buy 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.

English Ivy – a Blessing or a Curse?


Last winter you may have been surprised to see a lot of local trees covered with green leaves. Except they weren’t on the branches, they were all along the trunk of the tree and headed for the sky. While the sight of green might cheer you in the winter time, what you are seeing is English Ivy, which is an invasive menace. It was introduced during colonial times, and is now seen throughout North America.

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It’s Time to Divide! (Day Lilies, That is)

Although day lilies are tough enough to be divided in the summer months, why disrupt your garden while they are blooming? Waiting until  after the flowers are gone makes more sense. If your day lilies were under-performing this year, or seem very crowded, dividing these perennials will entice them to produce more flowers.

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WHO KNEW? EPSOM SALTS FOR YOUR GARDEN?

epsom salts

Most people have heard of Epsom salts and they typically associate it with baths, as this natural salt from Epsom, England is probably best known as a way to help relieve your body’s aches and pains. Or perhaps you’ve even been one of the unfortunate ones who’ve had to use Epsom salts as a laxative. But did you know that Epsom salt can also be an effective gardening tool? Really?

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How and Why to Divide Perennials

Why Divide Perennials?

There are three primary reasons for dividing perennials: to control the size of the plants; to help rejuvenate your plants; and to increase the number of plants you have. This is an inexpensive way to gain additional plants for your garden (or to share with others).

When Should You Divide Perennials?

This depends on whether your plants bloom in the spring or the fall. It is best to divide your fall-blooming plants in the spring, and vice-versa for those that bloom in the spring.

If you do this in the spring, it should be done as soon as the growing tips emerge in early spring. You need to allow enough time for the roots to develop before the hot weather of summer arrives.

Most perennials should be divided every three to five years. Some such as chrysanthemums and asters may need to be done every one to two years or they will crowd themselves into non- flowering clumps of leaves and roots.  Unless you want to increase your numbers, bleeding hearts and peonies don’t need dividing at all.

Don’t wait until a plant has become decrepit or monstrous to divide it. The rule of thumb is when it looks its best, divide it at the end of that year. Watch for the early signs of trouble: when the center of the plant has smaller leaves, fewer flowers, and weaker blooming stalks than the outer edges like this Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, or when the plant runs out of growing room on its edges and has nowhere to go but into neighboring plants.

perennial div.

How to Divide Perennials

Use a sharp pointed trowel or shovel (or spading fork) to dig down deep on all four sides of the plant, about 4 to 6 inches away from the plant. Pry underneath  with your tool and lift the whole clump to be divided.

Depending on the the root system, there are different ways to separate:

  • Spreading root system-This is most common for such plants as asters, lamb’s ear, and cornflowers. They can usually be pulled apart by hand, or cut with a knife, but may need more forceful separation using digging forks to pry the roots apart.
  • Clumping root system-This group includes astilbes, hostas, daylillies, and ornamental grasses. It is often necessary to cut through the fleshy crowns with a heavy sharp knife. Keep at least one or more developing eye or bud with each division. If you want bigger plants, keep several eyes.
  • Rhizomes- These are stems that grow horizontally near the surface. Bearded irises are the most common with this type of system. Divide these any time from a month after flowering until the fall.
  • Tuberous Roots-Dahlias are this type of perennial.  The tubers should be cut apart with a knife. Every piece must have a piece of the original stem and a growth bud attached. Replant after dividing. Never allow the divisions to dry out.

For more information about specific plants and when and how to divide, go to https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/hgic1150.htm