In the Garden:
Middle South
April, 2004
Regional Report

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After the flowers fade, bulbs like these puschkinias and grape hyacinths will benefit from a little TLC before they become dormant in summer.

Aftercare for Bulbs

Nurturance is part of every gardener's nature, so perhaps you've been wondering how you can best care for the bulbs, large and small, that served as spring's opening act. Beyond the first noble deed -- allowing their disheveled foliage to remain until it dies back on its own -- there are several ways to thank your bulbs for their beauty while providing for their prosperous future.

Weed and Feed
I begin by relieving my crocuses of chickweed along with any other cool-season weeds that are blocking their light. Taller daffodils tower over weedy neighbors, but crocuses and other little bulbs often need help holding their place in the sun.

Once weeds are out of the way, I fertilize all bulbs with a deep drench of a mix-with-water plant food. Their "green" time is so short they need fast, ready-to-use nutrients, which are best delivered in liquid form.

Soon you will be preoccupied with other things, so as long are you're doling out care, take the time to mark clumps of bulbs that were lazy bloomers this year. You can use colored golf tees, craft sticks, or anything else that's handy. Also draw a map so you'll know where to look for your markers. In September, surround each marker with a light sprinkling of an organic or timed-release fertilizer. When applied in September, slow-release plant foods have time to move down into the soil, so they are ready and waiting when bulbs push out new roots later in the fall.

Planning for Summer
Spring-flowering bulbs actually benefit from dry conditions when they become dormant in summer. This convenient miracle makes it possible to grow late-blooming mums or asters on top of deeply planted tulips, or right next to clumps of hyacinths or other bulbs that rest less than 6 inches below the surface. In shadier spots, tag team little bulbs with spreading clumps of Japanese anemones.


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