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Think ahead by attending annual mum sale

With temperatures rising, it may be difficult to think of fall. But if you want a flower show then, you need to start thinking about chrysanthemums now.

These gorgeous showoff flowers give gardens and flower beds one final hurrah of fall color. Or you can have them hop from place to place in containers.

Make those dreams come true by attending the Las Vegas Chrysanthemum Society’s annual mum sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Nevada Garden Club Center, 3333 W. Washington Ave. in the west end of Lorenzi Park. For more information, call 459-4633.

“We are holding this year’s sale earlier as many people had trouble getting them started last fall. Even our own society attributed the losses to hot, dry winds in June that stressed plants to death,” says Barbara Roe of the Chrysanthemum Society. “We are hoping for better establishment this year before the heat sets in.”

Showgoers will be able to get the ever-popular cushion mums along with large show mums, such as spiders and incurves, at the sale.

Here is what Roe suggests you do to give your mums a healthier start:

1. Add 1 tablespoon of superphosphate to every pot or planting hole.

2. Add a slow-release fertilizer at rates recommended on the package.

3. Add 1 teaspoon of soil sulfur to each pot or planting hole.

4. Mix these ingredients into the soil before planting.

5. Water in new starts with a root stimulator, but use it at half-strength.

6. Provide temporary shade to newly planted mums.

7. Protect plants from the wind to avoid rapid moisture loss; however, slight breezes are beneficial.

8. Give plants a stress tonic (available at the nursery) mixed in water to protect plants from wind.

During the growing season, Roe recommends the following to have attractive mums:

1. Fertilize mums monthly if they are in the ground or bimonthly for those in pots.

2. Watch for bugs under the leaves and spray with insecticidal soap.

3. If ants are on your mums, you have aphids. They eat aphids but not fast enough for control.

4. Watch for gray moths, also called green “inch worms,” on the underside of the leaves. When they arch up, pick them off. If you wait too long, they’ll do a lot of leaf damage.

5. Cut back mums severely as late as early July to control height. Make sure remaining stems still have leaves on leftover branches to restart new growth. Mums can get 6 feet tall.

6. Thin out older plants by removing spindly stems down to ground level.

7. Staking or caging mums is essential for tall varieties. In time, the mums will cover the stakes.

8. Bud removal (disbudding) improves overall plant looks and gives potential blooms room to develop. Remember, flower heads are heavy and you want strong stems to hold the blooms upright.

9. Add potassium in late summer to strengthen stems and support larger flowers. Epsom salt is an overall beneficial supplement to grow beautiful mums in pots.

May is a trying time for plants in Las Vegas with heat, winds, humidity, sunlight and the few raindrops we get. Keep a keen eye on your plants, especially new plantings.

Water stress: Watch for cupped, wilted, curling and limp leaves, especially on west-facing walls.

Patio plants: As heat soars, pull containers under the patio cover to prolong the blooming cycle. Keep soil moist to keep blooms coming. Place pots inside larger containers to reduce the need for more water. Fertilize often because the constant watering leaches nutrients.

Climbing roses: After they finish blooming, cut canes back to 4 to 5 feet long. Twist new growth around supports to double flower production next season.

Roses: Fertilize roses and if the leaves turn yellow, add iron. Wash aphids off new growth and blooms.

Flowers: For surefire color, plant periwinkle, portulaca, sunflower and verbena in sunny areas; caladium, impatiens, salvia, marigold, petunia and zinnias in afternoon shaded areas.

Vegetables: Plant eggplants, peppers, cantaloupes, cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and watermelons. Keep an eye peeled for bugs.

Squash: If cucurbits don’t set, remove a male flower and rub on female flowers to pollinate.

Tomatoes: Use a shade cloth to prevent fruit from sunburning. Temperatures above 90 degrees cause blossom drop. Direct a spray of water at the blooms to prolong fruit set.

Grapes: Expect some grapes to drop because of the heat. Use dipel to control skeletonizers.

Falling fruit: It’s OK if fruit drops but go on and thin them more to get larger fruit.

New fruit trees: Fertilize trees with nitrogen monthly and water in until September.

Herbs: Plant basil, thyme, oregano, chives and parsley near the kitchen door or grow them in pots.

Shrubs. After the bloom, prune your shrubs. Don’t worry if leaves shed, it is a normal occurrence.

Trees: Paint trunks white to deter the borers. Remove limbs indicating borer infestation.

Palms. Remove dead fronds after flowering fronds develop so you only climb the tree once.

Mulch: It reduces soil temperature, conserves water, controls weeds and softens soil glare.

Mites: They cause dry, dusty conditions within a plant. Wash infested plants down weekly and use insecticidal soap if the mites get out of hand.

Shady situation: Plant periwinkle, ajuga, English ivy and liriope where there isn’t much light.

Ugly walls: To hide ugly walls, plant vines such as cat’s claw, Virginia creeper and creeping fig.

Small gardens: If you’re short on space, plant bush-type vegetables such as squash and cucumbers.

Birds: For more birds, provide food, water, nesting sites and shelter from heat and predators.

Measuring stick: To have a tape measure always with you, mark your hoe handle in inches with tape.

Beginning a desert garden: Susan Kent of Turner Greenhouse will show you ways to garden under such intense heat during a program at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Nevada Garden Center. For more information, call 878-4797.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Thursday. You can reach him at lmills@reviewjournal.com or at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve, 822-8325.

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