2018, October 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to plant bulbs!

mixed spring bulbs

It’s time! Over the next two to three weeks, depending on your climate (I’m assuming Zones 4-6 for the purposes of this post) it is time to plant the bulbs that you have chosen for your garden. For the bigger ones, like Tulips or Daffodils, it makes sense to dig a hole for each one. If you have been really ambitious and have a lot of bulbs to plant, you can buy an auger bit that attaches to your drill and will make the “digging” a pleasure as long as your soil isn’t too rocky. (Just be sure you get one that is a little bit wider than your bulbs.) If you are planting a lot of little ones on one place, then its easier to dig an entire area to the depth needed, place the bulbs, and then carefully fill it in with soil. Digging hundreds of tiny holes will make you crazy. Space the holes at the proper distance apart for that type of bulb (usually stated on the packet). For a more natural look, space them in clumps, and don’t make the spacing as even.

The next question is, “How Deep?” This depends on what kind of bulb that you are talking about, but the general rule of thumb is to plant it 2-3 times deeper than the bulb is tall. So a good sized tulip bulb would be buried about 8 inches deep, whereas a small crocus bulb would be more like 4 inches.

Bulbs 2

Once you have the hole ready, you may wonder which way is up, especially if there aren’t any root remnants visible. In general, the flat end goes down and the pointy end up, but if you get one that you really aren’t sure about, plant it on its side and let the plant figure it out for itself. Plants are smart that way. (A side note: as a young gardener, I decided that I wanted to plant a row of Peonies. I ordered them through the mail, for some reason, and when they arrived, they were bare root – no soil. All there was to see was what looked like two bunches of worms attached by some fibrous stuff, some red and some white. I had absolutely no clue what to do with them, and after thinking about it for awhile, I planted them with the red “worms” down. I had a 50/50 chance, but had chosen wrongly and so had planted every single one upside down. I am pleased to say, however, that they righted themselves, and now, more than 20 years later, they still bloom every year. So, you see, plants can be very forgiving.)

Bulbs 1

Once you have set them in their hole, carefully fill it in, and make sure that they are watered a little over the next few weeks. After that, you can forget about them until they show up in the spring and you pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Have fun!

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2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to order bulbs!

bulbs

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time already, but it is, in fact,  time to think about ordering bulbs so that they can be delivered at the best planting time. At this time of the season, when the garden is still pretty full, it’s hard to think about where to put them, or why you would even want them, really. But try to remember that feeling that you had in March, of wanting spring to come, and how nice it is to see the first snowdrop, or have daffodils outside your front door, or to see a drift of Grape Hyacinths at the edge of your walkway or patio, and consider adding to the display. It’s a gift to your future self.

crocus

As for where to plant them, that’s a little trickier, when the garden is full. So here are a few tips:

-Plant some near the front door, or the garage if that’s your main entrance, or where they can be seen from a window that you look out often. It’s often too cold or rainy or muddy in the spring to explore the out-of-the-way parts of the garden, so they will be wasted if you put them there. Put them where you can enjoy them.

-Don’t plant bulbs where you usually have piles of snow from the plow or underneath the roof where snow is likely to pile up. Those places will melt last and the bulbs may never get a chance to do their thing. (I know this from experience!) Likewise, don’t plant them in a shady, north facing place – same problem.

-Think about planting them next to your fall blooming plants. That way, the spring bulbs will have come and gone before the fall plants start to get going, and they won’t compete for space.

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In a month or so I’ll write about how to plant your bulbs, but in the mean time, check out your local garden center and see what they have to offer, or try some of the mail order sources below. One word of advice – when it comes to bulbs, bigger is better, and it’s worth spending a little extra money for a bigger bulb of the type that you are looking at. Those have greater food reserves and will produce a more robust plant.

Have fun!

White Flower Farm

Burpee

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2018, May 2018, What to do in the garden

Planting Perennials

Path 2

Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to plant perennials since, for most of us in the Northeast, the threat of a frost is over. It’s time to go to the garden center and spend a little money. Or a lot of money! Regardless of the amount spent, we all want to protect that investment, and one of the ways to do that is to make sure the plants are planted correctly. The small amount of extra time that it takes to plant a perennial correctly pays off generously in the long-term health of the plant. And it’s very simple, once you know how.

 

Basically, what you are doing is creating an ideal environment for a new plant to grow in. This means making it easy for it to put out root growth, and giving it enough water deep down so that the roots to grow down, not up. Because if you have a good root system, the plant is much more likely to thrive. Here’s how:

 

1)     Dig a hole about twice as wide as the plant, and maybe 1.5 times its depth. The reason for this is that the soil that you put back in will be looser and it will be easier for the plant to grow roots into. Save the soil that you took out. Once upon a time, it was thought that putting back fresh, enriched soil was the thing to do, but studies have found that it makes such a pleasant place for the plants’ roots to be that they don’t venture into the adjacent soil, causing the it to be less stable. So the soil that you took out should go back in again, except for exceptional circumstances.

 

2)     Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the root system. If the roots look like they are densely packed, or are circling the bottom or sides of the pot, then they need to be loosened up. Scratch all the way around the root area, allowing the roots to spring free from the shape of the pot. If they are really stubborn, use your garden clippers or even a knife to slice them.

planting perennials 1

3)     Backfill some of the removed soil into the hole, and check to make sure that the soil level around the plant is the right height. Place the plant in the hole, and backfill around it until it is about halfway up the sides of the root ball. Water deeply. This ensures that there is plenty of water available at the bottom of the plant, and gets rid of any air pockets that may be lurking in the soil.

planting perennials 2

4)     Backfill the rest of the way. If you can, make a shallow ring around the plant with a little bit of soil so that water gets trapped there and can sink in. Water deeply again.

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And there you have it! Your plants’ roots will have an ideal place in which to grow and be well watered. Mulching will help retain water loss, so that’s a good idea as well. Just keep the mulch away from the place where the plant meets the soil, or moisture could settle in and the plants could rot.

 

So now, you know. Happy planting!