Pinch Your Garden Mums

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Beautiful mums.
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Mum flowers

Fireworks, homemade ice cream and family get-togethers are all traditions that we incorporate into the celebration of the country’s independence. These timely customs should also remind gardeners of a few things that need to be accomplished in the landscape as soon as the smoke has cleared.

I will never forget these words from a gardening mentor: ‘Pinch back your mums until the Fourth of July for good blooms in the fall.’ That was decades ago, and I still think of those words each year when Independence Day rolls around.

I always thought that pinching back the garden chrysanthemum was done to delay a sporadic bloom throughout the summer. The fact is that the garden mum does not bloom until a period when the nights have grown long enough for flower buds to develop. I think that if I would have asked why this is done, my mentor would have explained that the nice, full plant that is the result of pinching will look much fuller than one that is not.

The Fourth of July is also a good time to make sure that the trimming on spring-blooming shrubs is done. There is still enough time, from this point, for spring-blooming shrubs to put on flowering growth for next year’s display.

Generally, it is a good idea to do any pruning on shrubs such as lilacs, viburnum and forsythia as soon as they are finished blooming. This will give a plant the season’s full potential for flowering. But since there is only so much time to get all the gardening done before a plant is too large to allow a full year’s growth for the location, one can still have a nice spring display by trying not to prune these particular plants after this time.

The rule of thumb for pruning shrubs is: Spring-blooming plants bloom on the last year’s growth, while summer-blooming plants bloom on the current season’s growth, so prune accordingly.

The Independence Day holiday is also a good indicator to get ready for the bug invasion.

In most areas, bagworms will have been out for some time on evergreen trees and shrubs. If gardeners have put off taking care of the ones in the garden by chemical means, they should get it done now, because the larger they get, the harder it is to control them, and the females will soon begin laying eggs for next year’s batch. After the bagworms finish feeding, the only way to stop the next year’s hatch is to manually remove all the bags from the garden.

A watchful eye should be kept on the vegetable garden for many of the pests that wreak havoc on crops. Squash bugs and spider mites in particular seem to use the holiday celebration as their own welcoming party. 

Squash bugs are extremely difficult to eradicate with insecticides once the insect matures. Early applications of insecticide while the juveniles’ body parts are still soft and will absorb the pesticide can prevent the demise of your squash plants.

Spider mites will attack many garden crops once the weather turns hot and decreases their ability to produce a crop. Applying insecticidal soap to the foliage of the affected plant, especially the undersides of the leaves where the mites are found, can control spider mites fairly easily. It is also helpful to try and avoid using the insecticide Sevin in the garden if you have had problems with mites. The reason is that Sevin can decrease the number of other mites that prey on the Spider mites.