Poinsettias make long-lasting cut flowers, so consider adding them to your fresh flower arrangements.
About Those Leftover Bulbs
While rummaging in the basement looking for Christmas decorations I happened upon a bag of spring flowering bulbs that got stuck away by a mistake. I’m not alone here. All winter I get emails from readers asking if there is any way they can plant their overlooked treasures, short of using a blow torch to thaw the frozen ground.
First I recommend checking to see if the bulbs are in good condition. No use toiling over bulbs that are over the bend. Healthy bulbs will be firm to the touch, like a bulb of fresh Some may have already begun to sprout, but lack of green does not indicate they are doomed.
“Don’t let a bit of frozen crust on the surface of the soil deter you from planting,” says
Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, purveyors of antique flowering bulbs. As long as the soil is not frozen at the final planting depth they can still be planted. We often plant spring flowering bulbs in our demonstration gardens in December. Kunst says the larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils do just fine. However, crocus and some of the other small bulbs need to have their roots established before the ground freezes so they may fail to flower when planted out late in the season.
Brent Heath, co-owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (website and Facebook page) suggest potting up theselittle guys and giving them some transition time in a cool corner of the basement or an unheated attached garage where the temperatures range between 40 and 60 degrees. After about three weeks the bulbs should have developed a nice root structure and the cell walls will have made the chemical changes needed to withstand freezing temperatures. At this point bulbs stored in the basement can be moved to the garage. As added insurance the potted bulbs stored in the garage can be packed up of Styrofoam coolers or cardboard boxes filled with foam peanuts. The insulation will protect them from swings in the temperatures.
If you choose to move them outdoors place the pots on the ground in a protected area and cover them with 8 to 12 inches of mulch. Shredded leaves, pine needles or wood chips all work well. Covering the pile with a tarp or sheet of plastic netting will keep the mulch from becoming airborne in stormy weather.
Tulips need between 12 to 16 weeks in the cold in order to bloom. Most daffodil cultivars require 14 to 16 weeks. In spring the bulbs can be transplanted in containers for use outdoors or indoors.
This method will work for the gardener who only has a few bulbs to contend with, but what about the poor souls like my friend Darby who cornered the market on bulbs early in the season and never got the chance to plant them. Digging in frozen soil or potting up are not good options when you have seven hundred bulbs to plant.” she cried.
So I suggested she might try the quickie planting method used by another friend Rick Wray of Pennsylvania. He received a gift crate of bulbs the third week in December 2002, just two days before he was to leave on a cruise. With no time to plant them he simply tossed the bulbs on the ground and covered them with several inches of mulch. The following spring he was greeted with an incredible display of color.
Don’t worry if the bulbs land upside down or on their sides. They know which way is up.
The only hitch may be the weather. Ray’s neck of the woods is located in Zone 6a to 7 and Darlin Darby digs in Zone 5. Brent Heath thinks there is a good chance that tulips and daffs can survive being dumped out in the cold and thought mulching the bulbs was worth a try in this colder zone.
Heath was more concerned about critters than the cold. Bulbs that have not been buried in the soil are vulnerable to animal damage so it’s a good idea to take precautions. In their books Tulips for North American Gardens (Bright Sky Press $24.95) and Daffodils for American Gardens ($24.95) Brent and Becky Heath recommend spraying the bulbs with an animal repellant such as Ropel. In addition, scattering a thin layer of Milorganite (website and facebook page), a slow release fertilizer made of sewage sludge, around the perimeter and over the surface of the mulch bed will also help to deter animals. If you’re planting well away from the house in a naturalized location where you don’t plan to establish a garden, used kitty litter from the cat’s pan scattered about will also help to repel little 4-legged creatures such as voles that love to dine on bulbs. Granular PlantSkydd isformulated to repel all 4 legged creatures.
Planting spring bulbs in heavy clay soil laced with roots and stones is a backbreaking job so my dream of installing a river of daffodils in my meadow and at the edge of the forest that surrounds my patch, was a long way off. But when a huge dump truck got stuck in my meadow leaving deep ruts, I took advantage of the situation and filled the depressions with daffs.
With the green ash borer disaster, wood chips should be free for the asking for the next several years. I covered the bulbs is several inches of woodchips. I than sprinkled the surface of the chips with
Milorganite. While deterring critters, it also replaced any nitrogen that may have depleted as the wood chips decomposed. When life gives you lemons make lemonade. I am happy to report the daffodils thrived and have multiplied to the point they need to be divided after blooming this spring. .
For More Information About All Flower Bulbs