Posts Tagged ‘flower bulbs’

Timely Tip:

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

Daffodil Patch

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

Go to the bulb section of our website www.yardener.com.


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If you have green thumbs on your holiday shopping list, finding that perfect gift is a snap if you shop the gardening catalogs and their Web sites. Here are some of my favorites for giving as well as getting:

• From Renee’s Garden, www.reneesgarden.com/seeds/beginners.html, (888) 880-7228, come two Easy to Grow seed collections, each containing five packets of reliably easy, colorful and delicious veggie varieties chosen for folks new to growing a garden from seed. Priced at $13.95 plus shipping, choose from the Easy to Grow Rainbow Kitchen Garden or Easy to Grow Container Kitchen Garden set.  Renee’s Facebook Page

• Kinsman Company gardeners’ gifts catalog, (800) 773-4146, www.kinsmangarden.com, has pre-packaged gift baskets that take the mystery out of shopping. My favorite is the Pamela Crawford Pre-Packaged Gift Basket, which includes a planting basket, Dynamite Slow Release Fertilizer and a copy of Crawford’s best-selling “Instant Container Gardens” book. It’s a $56.85 value, priced at $49.95. Other great Crawford books include “Easy Container Gardens,” and for snowbirds, the new “Easy Gardens for the South.” In these books, Pamela Crawford shows how a rank beginner can create bodacious, stunning containers that will knock his or her socks off.

• Not all gardeners need new tools, so if the green thumb on your list has a full tool box, check out the Gardener’s Supply Christmas catalog, (800) 427-3363, www.gardeners.com. Along with garden tools, it features 186 gifts under $30. There’s something here for everyone.

• Real trees make fabulous lasting gifts and the Gardener’s Supply 24-inch potted Alberta spruce decorated in your choice of tiny birds or garden tools will delight any homeowner. After the holidays, plant the tree outdoors and it will grow 8 to 10 feet high. Order before Dec. 20 for Christmas delivery.  Gardeners Supply Facebook Page

• Along with garden tools, the Lee Valley Tool holiday gift catalog, (800) 871-8158, www.leevalley.com, contains an eclectic collection of gifts. Looking for quality yet inexpensive stocking stuffers? This is the place to shop. An old-fashioned Balsa Wood Glider Kit priced at $2.50 is fun for all ages. A hard maple muddler/pestle priced at $6.50, used to mash fruits, spices and herbs, is perfect for the Mojito maker in the family. At just $9.50, the pocket microscope with a 20-40x zoom lens is useful for plant pest hunting, or use as a beginner microscope for kids. Lee Valley Tools has lots of goodies for gardeners, woodworkers and cooks they don’t even know they need, so I assure you they will be thrilled with your choices.

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My friend Darby called the other day to tell me she was really feeling down. She’d read my article about the joys of growing spring flowering bulbs and she hated to miss the big show. But rabbits ravaged her bulbs last spring and she says she can’t handle another no-show.

When I asked what measures she took to keep the critters at bay Darby was kind of vague. Had she ever tried using commercial animal repellants I queried? Oh yeah she replied, I sprayed the bulbs when they started leafing out. Now be honest with me Darb, how many times did you use it after that. I asked. None she answered.

Sneaky Rabbit

Aha, there in lies part of the problem I explained. Most animal repellants work when used properly but they must be reapplied often. When plants are actively growing new growth may need to be sprayed every few days.

Because these repellants tend to be pricey many gardeners use them sparingly so they fail.

Animal repellants, including Deer Off, Ropel, Liquid Fence, Repellex and Plantskyyd are among those recommended by professionals. They are available at independent garden centers as well as super stores and big boxes.

Most repellants rely on a combination of materials including rotten egg solids, Capsaicin (hot pepper), and garlic, which provide both an odor and taste barrier. Plantskyyd is animal blood based.

Patch of Daffodils

For those who like to try home made potions here’s a recipe passed on by Sally Ferguson of the Netherlands Bulb Information Center (www.bulb.com.) She says it has been used successfully in the famous Rosendal Garden in Sweden.

Cut a block of green Oasis (the kind soaked in water for use in fresh floral arrangements) into 2-inch cubes.

Mix 2.5 lbs of blood meal into a standard size pail filled with water.

Mix in 1 cup of household ammonia.

Stick the Oasis cubes on the end of green bamboo plant sticks and stick the cubes in the smelly soup. Use a dab of hot glue to secure the cubes to the stick. I suggest soaking the cubes in this solution for several minutes to give the Oasis time to absorb the chemicals. Place the stinky green lollypops strategically in the garden. They should be level with top of the plants you are trying to protect. Higher for deer and lower for rabbits. Re-soak the Oasis lollypops once a week. If you’re only doing a small area consider cutting the recipe by half or more as the ammonia will dissipate over time.

By the way, storing animal repellants in areas where the products will freeze may render them useless so don’t leave them in the potting shed or unattached garage over the winter.

The Dastardly Vole

To keep voles from munching spring bulbs over the winter, David Salmon of High Country Gardens (www.highcountrygardens.com) recommends soaking them in Bulb Guard for 5 minutes and allowing them to air dry for five minutes before planting.

Becky Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com) recommends spraying the bulbs with Ropel before planting. Becky says to be sure and wear gloves when working with these repellants because they are sticky and taste horrible.

Squirrels and raccoons are attracted to freshly dug soil, so spraying the surface of the soil with Deer Off or other repellant will deter them from digging up newly planted bulbs.

Squirrels are attracted to the smell of the papery skins that cover the bulbs so to keep the sluffed off material from filtering out of net bags on to the ground and pick up any peelings that happen to drop off while planting. When planting I carry my bulbs around in a cardboard box to keep things tidy.

Another secret to success with many of these products is timing. Once animals begin feeding they often ignore repellants. So the first application should be done long before the plants flower

When it comes to repelling animals, partner Jeff Ball and I have become real believers in electric fences. In June I wrote about the Fi-Shock electric fence (www.fishock.com) we installed around my decorative vegetable garden to keep out 4-legged critters. It worked like a charm.

Jeff installed the plastic insulators on the edges of the raised beds encircling the entire garden with wire. The insulators come in an attention getting electric yellow color so we spray-painted them black. A little solar powered electric unit that is totally self-contained and requires no special wiring to electrical hook-up powers the fence. The Fi-Shock System utilizes the New Zealand design, which only gives off an electrical charge when the animal, be it two legged or four legged, touches the wire. I got hit a couple of times and can attest to the fact it gets your attention. Kind of like the poke you get from a plug outlet. The solar unit costs $200 but costs nothing to run. Battery-operated models that run on D-cell batteries start at $60.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit free-lance writer. Her column appears Saturdays in Homestyle. E-mail her at szerlag@earthlink.net. You can also read her previous columns on Detroit News Online at http://detnews.com/ homestyle/.



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