It is that time of year when people rush to their local greenhouses to purchase mums and pumpkins. These plants and gourds are often used to decorate front doors and porches as a sign that autumn is in the air. But when dealing with nature’s decor, it is easy to let the mums dry out and the pumpkins rot.
West Virginia University Extension Service’s consumer horticulture specialists, Mira Danilovich and Lewis Jett have advice on ways to make the most of mums and preventing pumpkins from rotting too soon.
“Instead of going by the calendar, it is best to purchase mums when daily temperatures are consistently staying around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Mums are cool season flowers, and hot temperatures will cause them to fade.”
“If properly cared for, mums should last 6-8 weeks. But they may only last a few weeks if they are over or under watered. When watering, it is important not to water overhead and get the leaves and buds wet. If watered overhead, you risk flowers being destroyed.”
“When choosing and purchasing your mums, decide whether you want to keep them as potted mums or if you want to plant them in the ground after their ‘life in the pot.’ If you want to plant them in the ground, look for hearty mums, and plant them in late October.”
“Mums love full sun. Because an insufficient nutrient supply is a common problem in mums, adding fertilizer with a higher potassium content every two to three weeks will extend the blooms.”
“Mums require deadheading, which is the removal of the spent flowers. After the flower is done blooming, cut off that flower. This makes sure that the plant’s energy will not be spent on forming seeds but into forming new flower buds and extending the bloom season.” —
“Always buy pumpkins that are firm, with good color and have no signs of rotting.”
“Jack o’ lantern pumpkins can be damaged by freezing temperatures, so bringing them in on very cold nights will preserve them for ornamental use.”
“Carving reduces the life of the pumpkin, so consider painting pumpkins or carving close to the time when you want to display the pumpkin.”
“Deer can damage pumpkins on display. Taking them in at night may be beneficial.”
“The pumpkin can be surface sterilized with a bleach and water mixture prior to carving or after the insides (the pulp and seeds) are removed. For the mixture, it is recommended to use one teaspoon of bleach per one gallon of water.” — Lewis Jett, consumer horticulture specialist, WVU Extension Service
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