After experiencing one of the hottest summers on record, Wichita gardeners have been cooling their heels waiting for the cooler fall planting season.
While gardening may not be synonymous with autumn in many people’s dictionaries, Kansas experiences a more moderate climate in the fall months compared with its steamy summers and subzero winters. In fact, several lawn and garden activities may work best if completed after the heat subsides.
Mum’s the word, but don’t forget the pansy
All around Wichita, people begin planting chrysanthemums, more commonly called mums, in early September. Sedgwick County horticulture extension agent Rebecca McMahon said mums are ideal for autumn because they are so colorful. She said to plant mums in a sunny location or one with partial shade for the best results.
Jeremy Johnson, one of the owners of Johnson’s Garden Center, said mums are likely the most popular fall flowering plant purchased at the Center’s three Wichita locations. Johnson’s grows its own mums, and the first plants hit stores in early August. “You see (mums) in the fall,” Johnson said. “That’s when they are commonly grown–it’s just tradition more than anything. There’s no real reason, except that’s when they bloom.”
Botanica, The Wichita Gardens plants more than 5,000 mums in 18 varieties each fall, said Mia Jenkins, Botanica’s director of marketing and communications. The display, which is sponsored by Boeing, will be planted in early September, and it will include mums in shades of six colors: white, yellow, orange, red, purple and pink.
“People come here to see what they can do in their yard,” Jenkins said. “We have to go all out; we have to put on a great show.”
Botanica will feature the mum at its Tuesdays on the Terrace event the evening of September 21, where it will be paired with Merlot wine.
Johnson’s Garden Center, however, does not highlight the mum in its fall promotion; instead, its promotion is called Pansy Mania Days. Pansy Mania runs from September 17-26, and customers who have shopped at Johnson’s Garden Center during spring and summer and have earned Pansy Mania dollars may spend them on anything in the store. “We just started (the promotion) to encourage customers to buy and plant pansies in the fall,” Jeremy Johnson said. “It’s a good time to feature the flower and all its color.”
McMahon said even though pansies are annual flowers, they often survive cold Kansas winters. “Pansies look good in the fall, and they often stay alive until the next spring and flower again.”
Pansies thrive in cooler climates, so Johnson said the Garden Center’s crop is brought in from areas with milder summers.
Botanica plants more than 18,000 pansies in the fall, Jenkins said. Most of them are located inside the structure that houses the butterfly garden during the warmer months. “If you plant pansies in the fall, they get a deeper root system, and they last until the extreme heat sets in in June,” Jenkins said.
In addition to mums and pansies, Jenkins said Botanica also plants asters and flowering cabbage and kale, among others.
Underneath the dirt
When planning the perfect spring garden, remember that some plants start from bulbs that must be planted in the fall. Flowers like daffodils and tulips fall into this category. “A lot of the plants that do really well here in Kansas are perennials,” McMahon said. “A lot of perennials that you just plan ahead and plant in the fall will look good in the spring.”
Also growing underneath the ground are fall root vegetables, including turnips and radishes. These should be planted soon to be ready during the fall season, Johnson said.
Lawn and tree maintenance
McMahon said lawn-care is often best completed after the summer temperatures die down. “Fall is kind of the ideal time to work with your fescue lawn.You want to overseed or start over and replant in September into the first part of October.”
McMahon said these activities only are necessary if one’s lawn needs sprucing up. “If you’re happy with your lawn you can fertilize it in September and November, and it should be good to go,” she said.
McMahon also said fall is tree-planting season. If one has lost a tree or wants to plant a new one, now is the ideal time to purchase a tree. “It’s not the middle of summer when it’s hot, and you won’t have to water as much. In the fall, you’ll have plenty of time for a tree to get established before winter.”