By Ken Lain, the Garden Guy
Mums Spark Seasonal Garden Transitions
Courtyards, front doors, and patios beg for pumpkins and perennial
mums, possibly a scarecrow or two. Decorating our homes is more
than making ready for costume parties and the candy fest that
follows. Autumn decorations are for the enjoyment of homeowners,
their neighbors and friends. Ten dollars of decorative pumpkins
and twenty dollars of mums offer more pleasure than a $30 cut
flower bouquet and can be enjoyed for weeks rather than days.
Cheryl Mums– Low maintenance, vigorous, winter hardy are
just a few of the outstanding characteristics of this larger than
life group of chrysanthemums. The dome of deep two-toned decorative
blossoms is long-lived in our area. Year after year the plants
bloom in the autumn garden or seasonal hedge.
During the first growing season their size will be comparable
to regular garden mums, but by the next season they will be double
in size due to their abundant rhizome production that serves to
overwinter carbohydrates. This unique trait gives rise to many
more stems the following spring that result in the large, dense-with-blooms,
fall mum. Easy to care for, too: No pinching required for these
mums to look thick and full! Mix orange-hued ‘Spicy Cheryl’
with the 'Jolly Cheryl’ reds for an exhilarating display
of autumn colors.
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The chill from week before last’s cold front is no longer
with us, but it was a good taste of what lies ahead. Landscapes
and gardens are in transition with beautiful colors, mild temperatures,
and soil that is warm and moist. It’s time to get after
those small projects in our gardens and yards.
Mice are really active this fall. They can wreak havoc inside
and out of our homes, and they are difficult to spot until their
damage is done. Like humans, outside critters are beginning to
get cold and are searching for warm spaces to spend the winter.
Mice have attempted to reside in the cabinets of my built-in grill.
They have been active in our hot tub casing and in the storage
bin where those expensive furniture cushions are kept. Even the
garden’s butternut squash have been nibbled on by these
pesky critters. As a result, war has been declared at the Lain
Last night a gopher-gassing bomb was strategically placed in an
open hole that was evidence of a family of rats or mice. Although
rodents return when the gas has cleared, because I thought I had
targeted a nest, the gas may have proved lethal. My fingers are
crossed! Also, because we have dogs and care about birds, I was
careful to use only a zinc phosphide –based poison. This
bait is far less toxic to pets than a cyanide poison. However,
I never use or store bait where dogs might have access to it.
Gopher Tox by Bonide is my bait of choice. All of my outdoor cabinets,
casings, and storage bins have a tablespoon of Gopher Tox in their
Snakes also were affected by our recent cold front and are migrating
right now. My daughters and I were sitting down after dinner for
a father-daughter Netflix experience when one of the girls lets
out a SCREAM! A small garter snake had climbed the furniture and
was watching the flick with us. He was captured and released back
into the gardens and we went on with the show. Customers have
been sharing similar stories of rattlers warming themselves under
the garage refrigerator or on a driveway.
Snake Stopper is an easy, affordable, and highly effective means
of keeping snakes from entering our gardens and our homes. I have
sprinkled the organic granules as a one-foot barrier at door entrances;
snakes of any kind will not cross it. It can be used in crawl
spaces and at garden walls. It is safe to use around children
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I’m busy picking the last of our basil and cilantro. These
tropical plants will not grow when the nighttime temperatures
drop below 45 degrees. Don’t worry about rosemary, oregano,
tarragon, garlic, and the other herbal plants. They enjoy the
All the squashes have been picked and the plants pulled from the
soil. This year powdery mildew was a problem in my garden, so
these plants will not be composted. This gardener would rather
throw diseased plants into the dumpster than risk reinfection
next planting season. I only compost clean, healthy, bug free
The peppers also have been picked and their plants pulled along
with the tomato plants that stopped producing. I also have pulled
summer annuals from my flowerbeds and containers. The goal is
to free up space to plant winter bloomers and vegetables before
the frigid temperatures come to stay. “Vegetable Food’
will be turned into the soil prior to planting winter lettuce
and spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. Plant by the end of this
month and you will be harvesting fresh produce through the end
of the year.
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.