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Mums the word year-round

Many of us decorate porches and patios with hardy mums in the fall. But a little bit of loving and some attention to the calendar can help you get the most out of your mums and even keep them blooming in a garden for years to come.

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If you planted mums in the ground back in the fall, then the summer months are important in their growth cycle.

Pinching: By July 15, you should pinch the top growth back 1 to 2 inches. This will ensure that your mums bloom in the fall rather than during the summer.

Feeding: From spring through July, nourish your mums twice a month with an all-purpose garden fertilizer mixed in water. Stop feeding in August.

Controlling pests: Aphids are the most common pests that afflict garden mums. These are small soft-bodied insects about the size of a pinhead. They range in color from green to yellow to black. They make their livings by sucking the sap out of tender new growth. To control them, spray an all-purpose insecticide or insecticidal soap on the plants once a week for a couple of weeks. Take care not to spray plants in direct sun or when the temperature is above 90 degrees.

Now, if you are thinking about planting your potted mum for the first time, here are some steps to take:

• Be sure to water your potted mums daily as warm days will make them thirsty. At the same time, too much water can damage the roots; provide drainage in decorative pots or baskets.

• It’s best to plant the mums in October so their roots have time to grow before cold weather sets in.

• Once the mums are planted, water them thoroughly a couple of times each week through mid-November. This will encourage the roots to grow deeply. The deeper the roots, the stronger the plants will be.

• In late spring, cut the plants down 6 to 8 inches above the ground. This will give you bushy, compact plants with lots of flowers. As spring gives way to summer, follow the instructions above relative to feeding and pinching.

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