I tried a mum experiment last fall. It was my justification for doing what I wanted to do anyway – buy mums! My quandary with buying mums in the autumn is that they don’t often come back for me. If I can find some this spring, I’ll plant them now. It will be cheaper. I will talk to them. I will water them. I will make them feel at home. I will encourage them to bloom beautifully this autumn and come back next spring.
The question still remains: What did I do last year that 4 out of 5 came back? I think it was the watering. Watering is just not something I think of in the fall. I do it other times of the year for new plants, so it makes sense that I should be doing it for mums as well.
Here is what Wally from Pesches suggested, and what he subsequently wrote in an article on mums. I’m even reporting my actual results. (See how that sounds like an experiment; justification for buying plants.)
I chose a mostly sunny site that drained well. Wally suggested amending the beds if there was clay soil. I didn’t need to.
Wally’s planting is a little more laborious than my usual ‘plop it in’ philosophy. I dug the hole, diligently followed his instructions to fill and drain the hole, planted the mum, and then watered. I even followed his suggestion to use Dr. Earth’s Starter Fertilizer on some of them. I had a control group with fertilizer and a group without. (There I am again making it sound like an experiment.) I purposely planted some as they were blooming and some after they bloomed. I wasn’t so diligent about following his instructions to mulch. Basically, I didn’t.
Watering my mums is what I really think made the difference. Wally says mum plants drying out in late fall is the largest reason fall planted mums don’t return. We had a dry autumn, so I watered mine regularly.
I did deadhead them as Wally suggested, admittedly only because I was out there watering. I didn’t bother to mulch when the ground froze, or check for heaving. Come on, it was cold out there.
I will add Dr. Earth Bud and Bloom Fertilizer to some of them (ah, the experiment justification again) to see if it makes a difference. As always, I will also encourage branching and development of compact bushy plants by pinching back my mums till the 4th of July. I’ll even ask you to mark your calendars to pinch your mums, and remind you in an article later.
That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it!
Check back in the autumn. I’ll let you know how the mums are doing, and if it made a difference fertilizing some of them. You have to come back. Reporting my results to you makes this a legitimate experiment. That’s what justifies my planting more next autumn. Pretty devious, don’t you think?