Chrysanthemums are Fall Beauties

September 19th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • When blackberry vines are done fruiting, prune back the canes that bore fruit this summer. Twine young canes around the fence or trellis.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of codling moths which make wormy apples.
    • Fertilize lawns now to build up root systems for a healthy lawn.

Chrysanthemums are Fall Beauties

The Greeks named it chrysos anthos—gold flower. The Chinese have revered it for thousands of years and the Japanese made it their national flower in 910 A.D. Yes, chrysanthemums or “mums” as they are commonly called have been around for a long time.

Chrysanthemums make some of the best cut flowers around. They last up to two weeks in the vase, and give fresh color to the garden when nearly all other perennials have finished their show for the year. In your garden, they will grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and have long stems for cutting.

Fall-blooming mums come in a dazzling array of colors. The “fall colors” of yellow, gold, rust and magenta are very appealing. But they also come in pink, white, purple and lavender.

There are “cushion” or “button” types which form low, bushy plants covered with blossoms as well as tall varieties with larger flowers. Most mums have fully double with flowers 2 to 4 inches across.

When you buy mums, they are tight, compact plants in 4-inch pots, blooming at about 8 inches tall. They will never do this again! The growers treat them with growth regulators that keep them very compact so they will bloom nicely in a small pot. In your garden, they will grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and have long stems for cutting.

These taller varieties need frequent pinching until midsummer to encourage full, stocky plants and large blooms, and they should be staked to keep their tall stems from breaking.

Mums will bloom with little care, but they need pinching to grow bushy plants and have an abundance of flowers. Without pinching, they will grow skinny stalks and have few flowers. Pinching forces branching, and therefore, more flowers. No pinching should be done after mid-July to allow plants time to set flower buds for fall.

To encourage prize-winning blooms, pinch all but one bud per stem. Remember to remove dead flower heads to force more flower production. Don’t overhead water because this encourage blossom rot.

When mums have finished flowering, cut the stalks down to a few inches above the ground. They will come back year after year with more beautiful flowers.

Plant mums in the flower beds along the house or by a fence in a sunny place. The soil should drain well and be enriched with compost. Set plants 18 inches to 2 feet apart and feed them monthly through the spring and summer until buds form. Stop feeding when the buds show color.

Fill a container by the entry with bright colored chrysanthemums or fill a flower bed with a riot of vibrantly colored mums.

Enjoy this final burst of color in your flower garden, and cut some long-stemmed beauties to admire indoors.

The Other Planting Season

September 19th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Choose chrysanthemums in a variety of colors now. They are hardy perennials which will brighten your garden each fall.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Lettuce can be planted from starts for a quick fall crop.

The Fall Planting Season

Here in California, we are lucky to have two planting seasons: spring and fall! Though we don’t get spring fever this time of year, fall is a much better time to plant, especially if you’re tackling major projects like putting in a new flower bed or border. Transplanted now, plants ease into the garden naturally. Trees, shrubs, lawns, ground covers and spring-blooming bulbs will all get established over the winter and be ready to survive their first hot summer more easily.

In the fall the soil is still warm and roots begin to grow rapidly as soon as they are planted. Cooler air temperatures put less stress on newly planted trees and shrubs, and watering needs are less. Once the rains begin, the plants receive plenty of water encouraging deep rooting as the roots continue to develop through the winter. These plants will be much more drought tolerant and not need to be watered as often next summer.

Fall is the ideal time to plant a tree — both for the gardener and the tree! The weather is cooler, so it is more enjoyable working outdoors. The tree also benefits because the soil is better able to retain moisture now than during the hot days of summer, so it becomes established easily. Trees and shrubs will show no growth above ground, but by having time to develop a strong root system over the winter, they will be ready for a major growth spurt next spring. Studies have shown that trees and shrubs planted in the fall will grow between one-and-a-half and two times as much next summer as the same tree or shrub planted next spring.

Lawns and ground covers do best when planted in the fall. The cool season grasses, which do best in this area, are most vigorous in fall and spring. By the time next summer rolls around, your lawn will be well-established and ready to enjoy.

Ground cover plants need to establish strong roots before they can begin top growth. This is the ideal time to plant them to get the most growth next spring and summer.

Perennial flowers like Shasta daisies, coral bells, columbine and lupines need to live through a winter before they will bloom. When you plant them in the spring, you have to wait a whole year to see them bloom. But if you plant them in the fall, they will bloom next spring.

Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs must be planted in the fall to enjoy their beauty next spring. They need several months to develop roots before they can bloom. By choosing different varieties, you can enjoy spring flowers from late winter through spring. Bulbs will brighten your spring garden with their lovely colors each year and need very little care.

Fall is almost here, so get ready for the best planting season of the year.

Fire Safe Landscaping

September 9th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies and snapdragons can be planted now to replace summer annuals. They will give you color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.
    • Take house plants outside and wash down dusty leaves. Let them dry in the shade before bringing them back inside.
    • Lilac bushes will bloom better next spring if you cut back on the watering now.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of codling moths, which make wormy apples.

Fire Safe Landscaping

If you live in a hilly, rural area of Mendocino County, fire protection is a major concern, and landscaping around your house is an important factor in fire safety. Landscape design, plant selection and maintenance of landscaping immediately around a home are critical considerations.

First of all, clear all brush, dead leaves and debris at least 30 feet from your home, and at least 150 feet if you’re on a hill. Dry grass should be mowed within 100 feet of structures.

A fire safe landscape doesn’t mean a ring of bare dirt around your home. When establishing your landscape, keep trees furthest from your house, shrubs can be closer, and bedding plants and lawns are nearest the house.

Landscape with fire resistant plants that are strategically planted to resist the spread of fire to your home. Develop a greenbelt of well-watered landscaping around the house for at least 30 feet. Lawns or low-growing groundcovers provide good protection. Add color with flowering annuals and perennials. Keep this landscaped area maintained with regular irrigation, pruning and cleanup.

The mid zone, 30 to 70 feet from the house, should contain mostly low-growing, fire-resistant plants. Shrubs should be planted in clumps or islands with walkways between to provide fuel breaks. Keep the landscape clean: remove litter under trees and shrubs, prune out deadwood, and remove dead and dried portions of ground covers.

Layers of flammable material that allow a fire to move from the ground to the tree canopy create a “fire ladder.” Pine needles on the ground can ignite and burn shrubs which carry flames into the tree canopy. Use only small shrubs beneath trees to lessen this danger. Keep tree foliage at least 10 feet away from buildings.

In the outer zone native vegetation can be maintained though dense brush must be cleared and crowded trees thinned. Trees should be spaced so that fire cannot travel across tree canopies.

In many cases, water shortages do not allow for well-watered landscapes, but leaving the existing, natural growth can be very dangerous. Unwatered chaparral plants become highly flammable under summer drought conditions. They should be removed and replaced by low ground covers that will produce less fuel.

Some plants which are far more fire retardant than most include rockroses, California lilac (Ceanothus), oleander, Santolina, Echinacea and woolly yarrow. Italian buckthorn, native oaks and maple trees are good choices. Heavenly bamboo, pineapple guava, Escallonia, daylily, cotoneaster, and star jasmine are just a few of the plants to choose from.

It is worthwhile to install an irrigation line that will operate sprinklers to wet down surrounding vegetation in an emergency. Such a system can be operated from a single manual valve.

Remember, all plants will burn if there is enough heat and if other conditions are right. But following these suggestions will make your home a safer place.