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SPRING-PLANTED MUMS HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF SURVIVING WINTER

Normally gardeners might expect an article on chrysanthemums to be written in the fall, because that is the season when three-quarters of them are sold and planted. This gardener, however, thinks that spring is a better time to plant any perennial, including mums.

Gardeners often are disappointed by the plant's inability to survive winter. Fall-planted mums are usually container-grown in loose artificial soils, and their root balls are well stuck together when removed from the pots.

These root-bound plants don't have a chance to root into garden soil before winter, and their chances of surviving winter are greatly diminished.

Unknown to many gardeners, mums also can be purchased in spring. They come in flats, packs and small pots, and usually the plants are in bloom so gardeners can get an idea of their fall color. Those not in bloom will be tagged with colored pictures.

Plant these young seedlings any time in May or early June, and they will be thoroughly established by fall. Their chances of winter survival are much better.

Select varieties not only by their color but also by their time of bloom. Early bloomers will color in late August, midseason varieties color in mid-September, and late bloomers hold off until October.

Gardeners should get enough plants to put on a good fall show. Plant three, five or more plants 18 to 24 inches apart in a spot that could benefit from fall color. The spot should get at least half a day of sun, but the more the better; quality will be much better in full sun.

Garden soils must be well-drained, and a little 5-10-5 fertilizer should be worked into the soil before planting. Side dressing a bit of fertilizer around plants in midsummer also can help.

Some sources suggest fertilizing until the buds show color, yet this gardener wonders whether by stopping fertilization in July, plants might go dormant more easily come winter. This might result in hardier plants.

Perhaps one reason that mums don't have nearly the popularity that they had years ago is their need to be pinched several times a season. New varieties tend to grow better-shaped plants than their ancestors, but pinching still is required.

Usually, small mum plants already will have been pinched once, or flowers have naturally "pinched" plants at spring purchase. By mid-June, however, gardeners should prepare for a pinch.

This process starts when new shoots have reached heights of four to six inches. Using the thumbnail and index finger, remove at least an inch, probably closer to two or three inches, of the growing tip.

The plant will respond by branching and sending up new shoots that should be pinched again when they reach three to five inches in height.

The last pinch in our area should be no later than July 15, perhaps even closer to the Fourth of July. Gardeners will notice that some varieties have already begun to bud at the last pinch. Pinch anyway, they'll be OK.

The rounded plants of reasonable height are now ready for their fall show. Leave the tops on the plants until spring growth appears, and mulch in late November with straw, wood chips, pine needles or other similar material to make these the hardiest mums you've ever planted. Gardeners should be able to enjoy them for several seasons.

Canada geese control

It wasn't too many years ago that it was relatively rare to see Canada geese in Western New York. Now they are a nuisance in some areas, and consumers, governments and other groups are looking for ways to repel them.

A product recently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency called methyl antranilate and produced by PMC Specialties Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, might prove to be a great repellent. To my knowledge, this product is not yet legal in New York State, and a timetable for its availability is not known.

For answers to your gardening questions, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Ken Brown, in care of the Features Department, Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Brown is a horticultural consultant.

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