Fall is the time of year to plant your spring bulbs. To get those first sprigs of green next spring and have beautiful tulips and daffodils after a long winter, you need to get them in the ground before the ground freezes. Here are some of the most common questions we get about planting these. Let us know if you have any questions of your own and we’ll get you the answers you need!
Q: What can I do about animals that are moving or eating my bulbs when I plant them?
A: There’s nothing worse than taking the time to get a beautiful selection of spring bulbs planted and having squirrels and other critters dig them up, move them or eat them. Gardeners mainly have an issue with animals and tulip bulbs, because other bulbs like hyacinths are poisonous for these guys. So one solution is to plant bulbs you know they won’t go after. However, everyone likes to see tulips in the spring time, so here are a few other ideas on how to deter the critters.
When planting your bulbs, you can add chicken wire over the top of the bulbs to keep the tiny paws from getting a hold of the bulbs. Be sure to secure the sides by bending the edges downward and push the edges into the soil. You’ll add this wire over the top of the bulbs before filling in the area with soil to cover the bulbs.
You can also try products similar to what you use to keep animals away from your plants. Sprinkle the area with animal repellants like Repels All, use some hot pepper spray or even coyote and fox urine in the area. These will hopefully scare the smaller animals away and prevent them from even trying to dig for your bulbs.
Q: Can I put them in pots or do they have to go in the ground?
A: Spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are perennials, and like other perennials you have in your garden, they need protection from our cold winters. So the best way to ensure your tulips will bloom next spring, is to plant them in the ground. But, there is a way to plant them in containers and overwinter them.
The first step is choosing a pot. Make sure the container has drainage so the bulbs do not rot by sitting in overly-wet soil. Also, the container will need to be at least 24 inches in diameter. Having a large container allows for a lot of soil, which will help insulate the bulbs. If there is not enough soil in the pot, the bulbs may freeze during the winter and never grow for you the following spring. If you have smaller containers you want to use, you will have to insulate them by either burying them in mulch or bringing them into your garage or shed where it is cooler, but not as cold as the outside.
Once you have chosen a pot, fill it with a high-quality potting mix, not garden soil, and plant the bulbs just as you would in the ground (about 2-3 times as deep as they are long. For example, a daffodil bulb is about 2 inches tall, so plant is 6 inches deep). Water the pots after you have planted the bulbs.
Once the warmer temperatures begin to warm in spring, bring any smaller containers you stored away outside. You’ll notice the bulbs starting to sprout just as they would in the ground.
Q: Can I transplant bulbs? (Cannas, Elephant Ears, etc)
A: Yes! Bulbs like elephant ears and canna lilies are not hardy in our area. When the evening temperatures start to dip below 40 degrees, it is time to store them for the winter in order to be able to grow them again next year.
To store the bulb overwinter, you will need to first dig it up out of the soil. When digging up the bulb, be careful not to damage it in any way. Any bit of damage could lead to rotting over winter. To prevent damage, start digging at least 6 inches out from where the plant is growing out of the ground.
Once the bulb is dug up, you will want to clean the bulb off. Gently rinse them in water, not scrubbing or using any sort of chemical. Cut off the remaining foliage that is coming out of the bulb at this point, as well. Now that the bulb is clean, it has to be dried to prevent rotting. Keep the bulb in a warm, dark room with good air circulation around it for about a week to be sure it is completely dried.
Once the bulb is dried, wrap it in paper and keep it in a cool, dry room for the winter. Once the ground has warmed up in May, go ahead and plant the bulb in your garden again.
The sun and heat takes a toll on all of us during the summer, and can especially be hard on the garden. From leggy petunias to green geraniums and drought-ridden plants, it can be rough on all your plants. Here are a few first aid tips to keep your garden looking its very best all summer long.
The first tip is fertilizing. We can’t stress this enough during the summer time. With the warm weather and sunshine, plants are doing a lot of growing. When the heat comes it puts a lot of stress on them and they burn out of energy. Fertilizing on a regular basis helps keep your plants looking healthy, lush and blooming.
Specific fertilizers can also help with problems we see pop up during the summer months. We often see the foliage on plants turning a bright, lime green versus the darker green that they should be. This is due to a lack of iron. Find a garden food that contains iron and sprinkle some of this on your plant. In no time, they will turn back to their natural green color.
The heat can also cause stress on blooming plants like geraniums. Using a fertilizer that is high in phosphate, the middle number, will keep blooms coming all summer long. Using a water soluble fertilizer is best for this, and we recommend using it every fourth watering to get the optimal performance from your plant. You can do it more often, but be sure to cut down on the amount of fertilizer you use, so you do not burn the plant.
During the summer months, some of the trailing plants like petunias and alyssum can grow to look leggy. They have long, spindly stems and are not as beautiful as when they were first planted. If this is the case, we recommend cutting them back. Yes, it is good to dead-head them, but to get them to bush out some more, we recommend cutting them back to where there is only 3-4 inches left of the plant. From there the plant will bush out and appear fuller and much happier.
Watering is key with plants, especially in the heat. In the summer however, most of us travel for at least a weekend here or there, and sometimes longer. If you come back from vacation and notice that your plants are laying flat and wilted from drought, don’t give up! If it’s a hanging basket, which often dry out the quickest, try filling a bucket up with water and dumping the whole basket down into it. If it is a larger pot, water it really well, about three or four times, and let that water soak in. Drenching the plants after a drought should help them revive themselves, as long as it hasn’t been in the drought stage for too long. If you notice your plants are not perking back up, then it may be time to replace them.
Finally, much like with mosquitos coming out during the summer to bother us, bugs and other diseases pop up during the summer months to bother our plants. With lots of rain and cooler nights like we have had, powdery mildew may be popping up in your yard where plants don’t have enough air circulation to dry out. There are different sprays you can use on mildew to help get rid of it, and while giving plants enough space surrounding them for air circulation can help prevent it, the weather determines if it will affect your garden at all.
Bugs like aphids and spider mites come out this time of year as well. They thrive in the heat but can be treated with insecticides and sprays fairly easily. Other bugs that may munch on your plants after we get lots of rain are slugs. If you notice small holes in the leaves of your plants, be sure to get a product like Bonide’s Slug Magic or Ortho’s Bug-Geta to take care of these. It’s a granule that you shake around the base of the plants and it will keep slugs off your plants.
While summer is our growing season, the weather can take a toll on your garden. With a little bit of first aid, however, your garden will be lush and beautiful all summer long.