ENVIRONMENT

Mums The Word As Gardeners Plant For Fall

By Lauren Wanko
Correspondent

They come in all sorts of colors and are often considered a welcoming sign that that autumn has arrived: hearty fall flowering mums. There are about 300 varieties on display at wholesale greenhouse, Kube-Pak.

“A mum stands for chrysanthemum. It is not only something that’s used in fall as a hearty product, there’s also chrysanthemums that are grown on a year-round basis that you’ll see in supermarkets primarily, which are used for holiday events,” said Co-Owner Rob Swanekamp.

Kube-Pak today hosted it’s annual open house for homeowners, garden center operators, landscapers and other buyers.

“We grow the entire program here that you see here today. We produce those and make those come into flower actually in a lot of cases sooner then they should, because customers want to see some color to get a good comparison between one color to another,” said Swanekamp. [We make them bloom sooner then they should] simply by giving them what we call short days. In other words we artificially make them realize that it’s darker earlier then normal. In our case it’s a question of putting them into an area where it’s dark every evening and bringing them out in morning.”

“The hardest thing is going to be able to chose the color, because I want one of everything!” said customer Dee Carroll.

There are six different color groups. Swanekamp says mums typically have a four-week bloom.

“We try to finish one variety each week from about the first week of September until second week of October in each color group, so we have something fresh each week,” said Head Grower, Jeff Walls.

The mums start as cuttings, a stem cut from a plant with a growing tip and no roots. It’s shipped to Kube-Pak. In June, growers stick the cuttings in soil in the pot. Those pots are set in the greenhouse to establish a root system and are placed under a mist. Then they head outside for about eight weeks.

“The strong sun, the wind really helps to toughen the plant up,” said Walls.

Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher says the industry generates enormous economic impact for the state.

“Just the growers alone in this state produce $450 million worth of product. So $450 million of plants, just the value of that at the farm level. So take that half a billion dollars and think about all the work that is involved in planting and landscaping, people just working around their homes, it has a ripple effect into the billions,” said Fisher.

And now’s the time to spend on your garden, according to Swanekamp.

“There’s an old saying that fall is for planting and it’s very true because if you want to have real good looking garden in the spring, you really need to start in the fall to get stuff in the ground and get it established before the cold weather hits,” he said.