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Start planning your spring garden now
Seeing daffodils always brings back wonderful childhood memories of running into the kitchen with a fistfull of flowers for my Mom. She quickly put everything aside, then put them in a vase for the kitchen table. Seeing the flowers made us feel that winter was almost over and springtime was just around the corner.
Fast forward to 2017, and that same excitement is still inside me but now includes buying different bulb varieties, plus planting them in my garden beds and containers. Have you planted your bulbs yet? Well if not, here are a few helpful gardening tips.
In our neck of the woods, now through November is the time to plant spring bulbs. You might wonder, why plant them in the fall? Because it allows bulbs to form a strong root system, plus it satisfies their cold requirements before they emerge in spring.
What to plant? There is a wide selection and variety of spring bulbs that play well together - daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, alliums and others. Keep in mind that most varieties of hyacinth and tulips do not last long in the Valley because our summer soil temps are a bit too warm. They will look great the first spring, then bloom poorly the next year, and often will not return at all by the third season.
Before planting the bulbs, give them a good inspection. Make sure they are firm and avoid bulbs that are withered, mushy or have moldy spots. The larger the bulb for its type, the more flowers. Small bulbs will have smaller or fewer flowers, but if you can be patient, they will mature in 3 to 4 years.
Remember the old gardening rule - “right plant for the right place.” Most flowering bulbs prefer full sun and well-draining soil. If your bulbs are early bloomers, they can be planted under deciduous trees since the leaves on the trees will not be out yet. Think about intermingling them with perennials, such as daylilies and hostas which will cover the bulb
foliage when it begins to die back in the spring. For the greatest impact, plant bulbs in clusters of five or more, rather than sticking a single bulb in the ground.
With a plan in place, it's time to dig! Yes, you can use a trowel or other gardening tools, but let me give you some advice - buy a bulb setter. It makes planting a whole lot easier.
How deep to dig? A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs two to three times as deep as they are tall. Many garden tools (bulb setter) have built-in measurement markers.
Which end is up? Plant with the pointed side up (the stem) and roots down. If you really can't tell, plant the bulb sideways and let Mother Nature sort it out.
In absence of a soil test, bulbs at planting should be fertilized by one of two methods. The first method is to mix a slow-release complete fertilizer, according to label recommendations, into the rooting area. The second method is to mix bone meal in the rooting area with an application of quick-release fertilizer. Water thoroughly and cover your bulbs with a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to help retain moisture and heat. Through the fall and winter, you need to worry about watering your bulbs only if we are experiencing a dry season.
Doesn't everyone love a free buffet? So to keep squirrels and mice from digging up and munching on the bulbs, plant either animal-resistant bulbs or stake down a wire mesh over the beds and remove it once the shoots appear.
With these helpful tips you should be ready to plant some spring bulbs and create your own garden of lasting memories. Happy gardening!
Lyndall Noyes-Brownell is proud to serve as co-chair of the Black Mountain Beautification Committee and is a Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener. She also is the webmaster for blackmountainbeautification.org and cares for plant containers in Black Mountain.