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Plan for your fall garden in spring

Plant fall garden in SpringIn May, we are excited about the colors of our perennial gardens, now just hinting at their summer glory.
But while you plan for summer, don't ignore fall.

Mums are the standard for fall color and while they are abundant in stores around late September and October, if you want them as a member of your perennial garden, plant in the summer.

According to Better Homes and Gardens, planting mums in the fall doesn't give them much of a  chance to overwinter.  Their roots don't have time to dig down deep enough to stay  healthy.  Instead, plant in spring to give them a chance to establish.

Basic tips for growing mums:

  • Choose a location with at least six hours of sun.
  • Choose well-drained soil. Clay soils won't do.
  • Never let newly planted mums wilt. Water regularly at the roots, avoiding foliage. If bottom leaves look limp or turn brown, water more often.
  • Your mums set out in spring need a 5-10-10 fertilizer once or twice a month until October. No need to fertilize fall annuals, but overwintering plants must be fertilized to stimulate roots.
  • Prepare for overwintering by mulching at least 4 inches with straw or shredded hardwood.
  • Pinch off spent blooms but leave the branches. Wait until next spring to prune old stems.
  • When the weather warms the following year, pull away the mulch to allow new sprouts.