In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2010
Regional Report

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My bulbs are ready to plant.

Still Time to Plant Bulbs

We are in the middle of a beautiful fall, but the cold is coming. However, there's still plenty of time to plant spring-blooming bulbs as well as garlic (yes, it's a bulb also) up until the ground freezes. There are so many beautiful choices available, that it is worth a walk through the garden center just to be inspired.

Even if the air is chilly, the soil is still fairly warm, just right for developing the root systems the bulbs need for good bloom next spring. We've not had abundant rains this fall, so it will be important to water your bulbs in well to stimulate root growth.

Choose the Right Site
The first step in planting bulbs is to choose your site. Although most bulbs perform best in full sun, you can plant early bulbs, such as grape hyacinths, small tulips, small daffodils and winter snowflakes, under deciduous trees. They will get the sun they need to replenish the bulbs while the trees have no leaves in early spring, and by the time the trees leaf out, the bulbs will be on their way to natural dormancy.

Watch the Soil
It's important to find a site with well-drained soil. If your soil is heavy and full of clay, you should consider amending it with compost or other organic matter to loosen it up and allow it to drain. Soggy soil means rotting bulbs.

Planting
After choosing a site and the bulbs for a beautiful spring display, planting is pretty easy. You can either remove a patch of soil to the right depth and then lay the bulbs in the open bed, or you can use a bulb planter or narrow spade and simply remove a small portion of soil where you will put the bulb or bulbs. Drop the bulb in the hole and replace the soil. This planting method is best for a naturalized look and can even be used in an existing lawn. Just keep in mind that if you plant in a lawn, you need to avoid mowing the foliage until it begins to yellow naturally.

Care After Planting
Whichever method you choose, water the bulbs in thoroughly and mulch with an organic mulch. We want bulb roots to continue to grow until they naturally go dormant so we try to keep the soil warm as long as possible. Shredded bark or compost work quite well.

Fertilization
Bulbs don't need fertilization at planting time. The roots need only water to develop, and besides, fertilizer applied now won't be used until spring. Applying it now simply means that some of it will leach through the soil and be lost. The best time to fertilize bulbs is early spring when shoots begin to push through the soil. After the bulbs bloom, allow the foliage to die back naturally. Removing it too early prevents bulbs from producing the energy they need to grow and bloom next year.


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