CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few fall gardening questions from readers: Becky Nichols writes: "I have tried to grow chrysanthemums several times, with no luck. If I am using them in the pots for the fall harvest, when is the best time to transplant them? Do I wait until they have died or can they be planted while still in bloom? Should they be covered in the winter after they are transplanted? Will they bloom the next year or is it the next year? Also, I have always heard, since they are a fall flower, you should remove any blooms that appear in the spring so they will bloom in the fall. Is this true?"
Becky, you're not alone. It's fall, and those beautiful mums are appearing at every garden center, grocery store and roadside stand.
I spoke with Bob Gritt at Gritt's Farm, who grows chrysanthemums to sell at the family's Buffalo farm and at the Capitol Market. Here's his advice:
"Time's almost passed to put them in the ground to ensure they will come back another year - they need to be rooted in pretty well to survive," Gritt said.
The cooler weather and shorter days will hinder that -- so that makes it hard to enjoy them in their pots by the front door and then plant them for future use. Next year, try getting a few for the pots and putting a few in the ground early, so they have time to establish themselves.
As for those plants that you've put in the ground, Gritt said to cover them sometime in late December, with something light, like some straw. "Nothing that compacts too much," he added. Covering them will keep them from sprouting too early.
"It's best, once they get cold, to leave them cold, so they don't try to sprout back up in a warm spell. It that happens, then they freeze and die," Gritt said.
For fall blooms, pinch your plants a couple of times, up until July 15, Gritt said.
Linda Smith asks two fall garden questions.
First, Linda wants to know when to plant tulip bulbs for spring. According to the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center/North America, fall is the time to plant tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and other bulbs that bloom in spring.
Here are some tips from the Bulb Information Center (www.bulb.com):
Choose bulbs suited to your area. Most hardy spring bulbs will do well in cooler climate areas. Most daffodils and other narcissi thrive and naturalize in USDA Zones 3 to 8. (Note: we're in Zone 5-7) Also consider pests, especially deer. If deer are a big problem in your area, then you might want to avoid snackable tulips and crocus.
Plant when soil cools down. For optimal results, bulbs should be planted at least six weeks before hard frosts sock in, to give bulbs time to root and establish themselves before winter. While it's best not to plant too late and hamper rooting, it's no better to plant too early, as too-warm soil can lead to disease problems for bulbs. Rule of thumb: Plant bulbs when the average fall nighttime temperatures reach and stay in the range of 40 to 50 degrees.