Winter Hardiness Trials of New Garden Chrysanthemum Varieties and Farm Research on Effectiveness of Winter Mulching Techniques

2006 Annual Report for FNC05-550

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
David Coveyou

Winter Hardiness Trials of New Garden Chrysanthemum Varieties and Farm Research on Effectiveness of Winter Mulching Techniques


We executed our plan to test the winter hardiness of a wide variety of garden mums by performing overwintering trials on our farm. Fifty varieties of garden mums grown at Coveyou Scenic Farms in 8” fiber pots were planted in the variety winter hardiness trials. A test plot field was prepared with soil cultivation through plowing and disking. A weed matting material was put down over the test field and secured in place. Holes were cut in the matting to allow plants to be spaced 24” on center in rows and between rows. Drip irrigation lines were run to water each plant individually and identically. The irrigation system was tied into our larger farm pond irrigation pump system. Six representative mum plants from each selected variety were planted into the test bed with three of the plants having their fiber pots removed and three planted directly into the ground with the recycled cardboard fiber pot as described in our original plan. Planting took place from September 8th through 16th. Monitoring of the plants for insect, fertilization, and other concerns took place from the time of planting through the end of the year. In mid-November straw mulch was placed over all plants in this test plot.

For the second part of our project plan we took three mum varieties that we believed to have reasonable winter hardiness and planted them into the above trial bed with 18 plants of each variety. Six of each of these plants would test various mulches applied to them for the winter (i.e. 6 plants with hardwood tree leaves, 6 with 18” of snow piled high on the plants, 6 with no mulch applied). In the spring we again will document the survival rates of each mulching method.

All plants appeared to root in well and none experienced any stressful situations. Our abnormally early snowfall in mid-October did no harm to the planting. We accumulated 15-18” of snow by early December only to watch an unseasonably warm latter half of December melt all our snow. This test planting will ride out the remaining winter experiencing whatever Mother Nature brings our way.

Work Activities and Hours:
• Agricultural Intern Student; Monitor and document plant growth including Ph and EC soil measurements. May-Sept; 15 hours
• David Coveyou; Farmer, Overwinter field preparation. Disk, fertilize as required. Tractor and operator; Aug-Sept; 10 hours
• Hedy Coveyou; Cooperating Farmer; Plant selection and planting in overwinter field; Sept; 10 hours
• Agricultural Intern Student; Planting of trial bed overwinter field; Sept; 40 hours
• Agricultural Intern Student; Installation of drip irrigation water system and weed suppression mat; Sept; 15 hours
• David Coveyou; Farmer. Insect, disease, nutrition monitoring and control; Sept06-June 07; 15 hours
• Agricultural Intern Student; Installing overwintering straw mulch and netting Nov-Dec; 20 hours (Includes time to go pick up the straw.)
• Agricultural Intern Student; Removing overwintering straw mulch and netting April; 15 hours
• David Coveyou; Farmer; Installation of fertigation injector and watering system; 10 hours
• Agricultural Intern Student; Data collection on survival rates; June; 8 hours
• Agricultural Intern Student; Plant old growth trimming and removal April; 15 hours
• Agricultural Intern Student; Watering, pinching, growth monitoring, weed removal April-Nov; 50 hours

Outreach activities:
• David Coveyou; Farmer; Report generation; conference presentation generation; Sales aid generation on winter hardiness; 20 hours (MI Small farm conference travel; MI Great Lakes Ag Conference; Grand Rapids, MI)
• Wendy Wieland; MSU Extension; Outreach facilitation and report review and consultation
• MSU Floriculture Staff; MSU Extension; Outreach facilitation and report review and consultation
• Writing, editing, printing, Master Gardener field day handouts
• Generating and printing, Garden Mum Winter hardiness display signs
• Generating and printing, Garden Mum Winter hardiness Variety display tags

Plants and project supplies:
• Garden Mum plants grown at Coveyou Farms; 50 varieties, 6 plants per variety; plus 18 plants for three varieties; 354 total plants
• Floricultural WeedMat; 12’x300’ and stakes
• Irrigation drip tube line and fittings
• Fertilizer
• Insect and Disease chemicals
• Straw Mulch; 75 bales
• Straw mulch wind netting
• Irrigation Fuel; 30 gallons
• Land rental; 1 acre
• Equipment, permanent fencing, perennial seeds & plants
• Fertilizer Dosing Injector and filter

Since this project is a winter hardiness trial no results will be available until we review the survival rates in the spring.

We have learned that we have been able to execute our plans to grow plants, prepare the test bed, plant the test plants and apply overwintering mulches per our plan on schedule and budget without any significant issues.

The majority of the real “work” is done for this project and now we will wait for the results in the spring. Our plan for next year is to monitor the amount of snow and cold temperatures we receive. In early spring we will remove the overwintering mulch and assure adequate water and fertilizer to promote growth. It should be fairly clear in the latter spring/early summer to get definitive winter hardiness survival rates from the test plots for each variety. We will know the number of plants put in the ground in the winter and we will easily be able to tell how many of those plants survived in the spring. A survival rate will be calculated and varieties “graded” on how well they survive. A similar recommendation will be made from the overwinter mulching methods survival rates.

One element of this project is to determine the winter hardiness benefits that may come from growing and planting directly in fiber pots. We will be calculating the survival rate differences between plants planted directly in the soil versus in their fiber pots. If benefits are supported for growing in fiber pots, farmers could then market not only winter hardiness benefits but also the environmental friendliness of recycled cardboard instead of petroleum-based plastic that ultimately end up in landfills.

Depending on the results, we will either continue the test plot for a second year, add to the test plot with new varieties, or discontinue the plot if we have complete failure of any varieties to survive. We plan to share our findings with other growers and consumers.

We will be able to start collecting data for this project in the spring when we review the survival rates of the different varieties and mulching methods. There is no meaningful information to share at this time.

Our plan is to share our findings as much as possible with other farmers, growers and our customers. The amount of publication will depend on how meaningful and interesting the conclusions of the study are. We are especially interested in the response by the general public. We will be presenting our findings to customers who previously have been hesitant to buy garden mums because of the overwhelming number of varieties and the lack of any winter survival comparisons. We plan to monitor sales as well as customer feedback to see how winter survival information increases on-farm sales of garden mums.

Furthermore, we plan to work with Wendy Wieland of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance who is on staff with Michigan State University Extension and a member of the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference Planning committee to facilitate getting our findings published at the Michigan Small Farm Conference potentially in January 2008. The conference is attended by approximately 600 farmers in the state. Additionally we plan on networking and sharing results with the Michigan State University Floriculture staff as well as exploring if the results have merit for any other floriculture trade journal publications.