Moesel: In the fall garden, mums is the word
Fall officially begins this next week, but we already have seen some autumn-like weather with cooler days and cooler nights.
The cooler weather, start of in-person or virtual school and fall football all makes us think of fall flowers.
The main flowers of autumn are hardy mums or chrysanthemums. They bloom instinctively at this time of year as the days get shorter as they are photoperiodic and bloom on short days.
If you have hardy mums that are already in your yard, they should be in bud or starting to show color now. Hardy mums are a plant you can buy in bud or bloom now to color up your flowerbeds or decorate containers on your porch or patio. They will be available at most nurseries or garden centers in 6-inch pots, one-gallon, two-gallon, three-gallon, five-gallon pots or in mum pans or even decorative containers so you can buy them to add color and excitement to your landscape.
Hardy mums are available in a multitude of varieties and colors that allow you to express your own artistic personality. Since most of the hardy mums already are showing color, you can select the colors you desire from a wide range of white, yellow, red, burgundy, lavender, bronze, pink and many multicolored combinations.
Hardy mums also have a number of flower styles, including double flowers, single daisy style flowers and spoon mums that have petals shaped like spoons. Different varieties have different growth styles from short cushion mums that look like large pin cushions covered with flowers to more upright varieties or large mounds of “Belgian” hardy mums.
Mums are heavy drinkers and need more water than most plants as they are supporting a lot of leaf canopy and flowers. Plants in raised planters or decorative containers will dry out faster than plants planted in ground beds.
Hardy mums in containers may need watering almost every day on warm days to help the root system support these fast growing plants. You can mulch the top of containers or flowerbeds to reduce your watering needs about in half. The smaller the container the more often your hardy mums will need water. The larger the containers and soil mass the longer they can go between watering. Consider transplanting your hardy mums to ground beds after the flowers are done to increase their changes of wintering over and coming back to grow and bloom next year.
Most of the hardy mums will flower and stay colorful until early November or the first hard freeze. A hard freeze often will discolor the flowers and freeze dry the plants as we wind down another growing season. Since they are perennials, we are likely to get them to grow back for another year next spring with just an occasional watering this winter to make sure the roots don’t dehydrate. Mulching also helps them survive the winter and ensure an encore performance next year.
There are many other flowers to plant in the fall, and we will visit more about pansies, ornamental kale and cabbage as the cooling process continues. If you want to be an early planter, you can start planting pansies and those cool season crops now.
We often talk about sowing tall fescue from now until mid-October if you want a green winter lawn. Fescue will be hard to locate this fall because most of it is grown in Oregon, and the terrible fires have burned many of the fescue farms and left most of the other turf grass farms on evacuation orders. We may have to wait a year to sow fescue unless you find a nursery that got in their grass seed supply before the fires.
Fall is also when we plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips, hyacinth, daffodils and crocus. We usually wait to plant until the ground is cooler but shop now to get the biggest and healthiest bulbs. You will love yourself next spring if you put in the effort to source and plant these bulbs this fall to create your own welcome to spring garden show as they flower next March.
Rodd Moesel serves as president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau and was inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. Email garden and landscape questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.