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2019 Newsletter 40- Getting diggy with it: Plant those bulbs!

2019 Newsletter 40- Getting diggy with it: Plant those bulbs!

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I’ve always known in theory that you plant tulips, daffodils, and crocuses in fall and that they will sprout in early spring, filling your garden with color for three whole months while you wait for summer. But in my garden, nothing.
Well, to be honest, it’s been no secret that I might be a tad impatient with this whole “gardening” thing. If I look back to warm Marchs of yesterdays-gone-by, we would all see me planting seeds in the barely unfrozen soil. (Yes, I hear those gasps and tuts from the wise ones in the back.) Then, the rains/floods would come and wash them all away. Bye-bye, little seeds. Oh, let’s not forget when I planted ALL the bulbs I had in mid-August in 2017! Yes, I said ALL the bulbs – including dahlias and lilies. I think we can all agree that I have come a LONG way in my gardening knowledge since then!
No matter where you live, there are a few ways to judge whether or not it is the right time to plant your bulbs and tubers. In general, the almanac suggests to plant when nightly temperatures are around 40 or 50 degrees, or about six weeks before you expect the ground to freeze. Which seems to be right around now in our area. Once you have the bulbs in the ground, they’ll stay dormant for the remainder of the fall and winter.
So, just between you and me – did you plant your fall bulbs too soon? No judgment here. REALLY! Who am I to judge? However, if you jumped the gun and put your spring bulbs in the ground already, I strongly advise you to cover their planting areas with two inches of well-shredded leaves. This will keep the ground from warming up too much on “Indian Summer” days that are possible in mid-to-late October. If you don’t, your bulbs could sprout this fall, which would mean no flowers come spring. the leaves will also help guard the bulbs against those bushy-tailed, tulip breathed little critters. You know the ones – the squirrels were probably on the highest branch, drooling when you were planting away in the garden. 
Now, Tulips and Crocus are delicious and nutritious, so every animal eats them. But almost all of the other spring bulbs: daffodils, alliums, etc are either toxic or just taste awful. When a squirrel stumbles upon freshly-dug earth (I debate if they really stumbled upon it to begin with, as they are crafty), he or she assumes that another animal has buried a stash of food. So, being the little back-stabber only out for his own survival, the squirrel retrieves the tasty goodness, takes a bite and realizes it’s nothing but bulbs — and spits it out wherever it happens to be. Which explains why there is a daffodil growing in the middle if your lawn.
Once you get those bulbs planted, you want them to remain there. So how do you keep the critters away? Supposedly, squirrels are lazy. They won’t dig in a bed that’s filled with lots of stems and roots, or a piece of chicken wire. Along those lines, there are two ways to utilize chicken wire as a prevention method:
1. Lay it directly atop the bulbs, and then cover bulbs and wire with soil
2. Cover the bulbs first with soil, and then add the wire, pegging it down with rocks or bricks. This way, the wire can be removed when the bulbs sprout in Spring.
I’ll be out planting my bulbs this week. I have started a design plan that includes planting my Alliums in threes and clumping my Tulips together in groups of 10-12, with the taller ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Until next time,
Michele
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