Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tulip Time

Crocus are one of the first
bulbs to bloom in spring
It’s officially fall; the days are getting shorter, the temperature is falling and things in the garden are slowing down. I haven’t mown my lawn in over a week, when at the height of summer it was a twice a week chore. Sometimes I am actually relieved when this time of year rolls around.
But, it is not too early to think about next spring and it is the perfect time to plant bulbs. Bulb sales have been declining for several years and it’s mystery to me why. One of my gardening friends thinks it’s because we want instant gratification. We don’t want to plant something now and then have to wait six months before we see it bloom. Well, what ever the reason it is too bad because bulbs are a wonderfully versatile plant in the garden.

Fritilliaries are deer resistant
You can pack a lot of blooms in a small area by "layering" the bulbs, or planting them at different levels based on their requirements. A good rule of thumb is to plant a bulb at 3 times its height. Smaller bulbs like crocus need only be planted maybe 2-3 inches down in the soil while the bigger bulbs such as daffodils or allium need to be planted deeper. And it seems to just work out that the smaller bulbs bloom earlier than the bigger bulbs. There are even bulbs that bloom in the fall! The saffron crocus is one of them, colchicums are another.

The bulb industry has a new ad campaign to show you just how easy it is to plant bulbs. It is called Dig, Drop, Done. Dig the hole, drop in the bulb, and you’re done. You should also be sure to water thoroughly but that doesn’t really go with the alliterative dig drop done theme. I like to naturalize my bulbs, either in the flower beds or in the lawn. I just randomly toss the bulbs in the area I want to plant and then plant them where they land.

Daffodils in bloom
You can fertilize if you like but it really isn’t necessary. The bulb itself has all the energy it will need to grow and bloom the next year. The best time to fertilize is in the spring when you first see the foliage poke up from the ground. After the blooms have faded, resist the temptation to cut back the foliage. This is how the bulb produces and stores the energy needed to bloom next year.

When you buy bulbs make sure to purchase the largest bulbs possible. The bigger the bulb the more energy it has to produce blooms the first year. The bulbs should be also be firm and not bruised. Soft bulbs are dead and will not bloom next spring.
Fox in the neighbor's garden

Yesterday while walking in the neighborhood a fox ran in front of me on Pomeroy Street. He ran into someone’s side yard and sat there long enough for me to take this picture with my phone. He jumped up on a retaining wall and then saw me and took off.