Thursday, August 25, 2016

Problem Solving 101

Sometimes it’s difficult to find a good solution to a garden problem.  Since fall is the time we plant many perennial bulbs, I thought I’d share some good common sense protections and solutions I’ve gathered from reliable sources:

For most every fall planted bulb:

·      Seldom will a bulb survive if they stand in water.
·      Fertilize with one tablespoon bulb fertilizer (slow release 10-10-10).  Do NOT use manure.
·      After bloom, allow foliage to yellow completely – it provides the nutrients for next year’s flowers.
·      Because the foliage disappears over the summer, sprinkle colored fish tank rocks around them and you won’t be digging them up or damaging later.  Trust me:  You will forget where they’re planted.
·      You MUST plant at the right depth and in the right position.
·      If you naturalize bulbs in your lawn, don’t mow until the foliage turns yellow.

Protecting bulbs from animals:

·      If animals dig your newly-planted bulbs try covering with plastic bird-netting, wire-mesh, a window screen, or burlap bags for a couple of weeks till the inviting smell of freshly-dug earth disappears.
·      If animals burrow to your bulbs, try lining the planting hole with wire-mesh, plant in wire-mesh boxes, or plant in buried pots covered with a square of chicken-wire.
·      Moles often disturb bulbs as they dig for grubs. Killing the grubs will also discourage voles and mice which often use mole tunnels to munch on bulbs.
·      If animals eat spring growth, cover it with chicken wire for a few weeks (while they are hungriest), sprinkle blood meal around it, fence them out, or spray it with bitter, non-toxic Ro-pel, available at many garden centers. Bulbs can be dipped in Ro-pel before planting, too.

Getting the most and longest lived results from tulips:

·      Plant where you never water in the summer or where some large tree or bush will drink the most. 
·      Tulips need lots of sun. 
·      Plant in mid to late fall after the soil has cooled.  Later is better. 

Knowing your daffodil:

·      Plant in full sun although they adapt to light shade. 
·      Plant in mid-fall when soil cools; earlier is better than later. 
·      Avoid or improve clay soil.
·      Re-fertilize lightly every spring and fall.
·      Deer, rodents and most other pests leave daffodils alone. 
·      If they decrease in numbers, it usually means overcrowding – dig and divide.

The indestructible crocus:

·      Plant as soon as the soil cools in the fall to give them time to establish roots.
·      Plant in full sun to very light shade.
·      Do not apply a thick mulch; they are too small to push through.

The wonderfully scented hyacinths:

·      Hyacinths like rich, well drained soil that’s dry in summer and in full sun.
·      They should be well-mulched in our zone 5 to survive our winters.
·      Some people are allergic to hyacinth bulbs – if you are – use gloves to plant.
·      Plant mid-fall.
·      To prevent large varieties from flopping, plant a thin green bamboo stake right next to the bulb and the florets will clasp the stake.  

The wonder of Peonies:

·      Plant in EARLY fall to give the roots a chance to put out feeder roots before it freezes. 
·      Choose a sunny to lightly shaded area with good air circulation and plenty of room for growth.
·      They do best in somewhat heavier clay soils away from roots of trees & bushes.
·      Plant shallow – deep planting leads to poor or no flowers.
·      Apply a winter mulch after the ground freezes on new plants.  Use straw, cornstalks or evergreen boughs – do not use leaves.
·      Although the bulbs will rot if they stand in water, they need good moisture.
·      Blooms will be meager the first few years while it establishes strong roots.
·      After the leaves turn brown in the fall, cut all foliage back to ground.
·      Peonies generally DO NOT need fertilizer or they won’t bloom well.

Other beauties:

Many woodland plants benefit from fall planting.  Try some of the old favorites such as bluebells, Anemones, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Fritillary, Snowdrops, Squill or Trilliums.  Each have their own set of instruction.

“Old House Gardens” has wonderful instruction, history and fun facts.  I use them for all these. 

Fall is the perfect time for planting many of these wonderful long lasting perennials.  It isn’t instant gratification, but come next spring you’ll be glad for every single one!

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