Planting in Autumn. Time for Tulips!

Yes, Fall is for planting and its right around the corner so its time to start planning.  Fall is the time for planting tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, alliums, and many, many more beautiful spring-flowering bulbs. Many bulbs must be cooled for a period of time in order to sprout so they need to be planted in Autumn. Over the winter the bulbs are naturally cooled or frozen in the ground and then sprout in the spring when the sun warms the ground. Now is the time to plan for your Fall plantings so your spring garden is bright and beautiful.

Planting bulbs is a very easy process.  When you purchase bulbs,  the bulbs will generally come packed in a bag or box with wood chips, wood fibers, or some other inert absorbant organic material. Planting directions  will be either in or on the package.  Read the directions carefully.  You must plant your bulb at the correct depth or they will not thrive. Bulbs also need to be placed in the ground correctly.  Bulbs have a top and a bottom.  For example, a tulip bulb is pointed on the top (where the greens sprout from) and flatter on the bottom (where the roots will extend from). The bulb will not thrive and may perish if it is not placed in the hole the right way and at the correct depth so make sure you read the instructions before planting so your plants reward your hard work with a fabulous display of color in the spring.

tulip bulbs
tulip bulbs: photo curtesy of youcanlearnseries.com

Bone meal is an excellent fertilizer for spring flowering bulbs as it adds phosphorous to the soil which is the nutrient that’s responsible for producing larger and more beautiful flowers.  However, bone meal is exactly what its name implies.  It is made from the bones of slaughtered animals, usually cattle.  It is an organic fertilizer but if you are adverse to using animal remains in your garden, try adding bat guano (bat poo) or poultry/pig manure to your soil.  Manure based fertilizers add phosphorous and nitrogen to the soil. Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for plants, however, nitrogen encourages the greens of the plant to grow, in detriment to flower production, so limit the amount of nitrogen you add to your soil for your bulbs or you may end up with fabulous greens and no flowers!

Some critters, like squirrels and deer, will dig up or eat your bulbs. Using bone meal as a fertilizer on your bulbs tends to deter herbivores (plant eaters) from digging or munching in the area where you planted your bulbs because of what it is made of.  There are also some manufactured deterants, in the form of  sprays and granules, that will deter animals from digging or eating your bulbs.  Before purchasing these products, read the directions to understand how to use the product and whether the product is potentially hazardous.  Also be aware that some of these products use foul smelling substances to deter animals so using the product near your home or commonly used area may create a rather obnoxiously fragrant (stinky!) nuisance.

There are also DIY projects that are easy to install that deter animals from digging your bulbs. Chicken wire is an excellent solution, especially for large beds containing bulbs.  Plant your bulbs as normal, covering the bulbs with soil. Then lay chicken wire over the ground on top of the area where the bulbs are planted. Hold the chicken wire down with rocks or other decorative items or place a layer of mulch or dirt over the wire to hide it and hold it down. Animals will not be able to dig through the chicken wire and your bulbs will remain safe and happy tucked away in their new bed.

Another simple way of protecting bulbs is to create or purchase a wire basket with a wire lid that is large enough to hold your bulbs.  Dig a hole in the ground large enough to hold the basket.  Plant the bulbs in the ground inside the basket and close the lid. Hide the lid with a nice layer of mulch or soil.  The bulbs are now planted in the ground safe inside the wire basket away from the wildlife that would love to dig them up.

Bulb cage

Bulb cage DIY project found on http://www.instructables.com/id/Gardeners-underground-bulb-cage/

Fall is coming quickly so start planning now.  It will be so worth it in the spring when your newly planted bulbs flower and that dull corner of your yard glows with radiant color.

 

 

I love Breck’s bulbs. Check out brecks.com for a variety of spring flowering bulbs. Breck’s has a wonderful selection of high quality spring flowering bulbs and they have a lifetime guarantee on their products.

As always, have fun and be creative. Gardening is an ongoing experiment. There is no right or wrong. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Happy Gardening!

Quote of the Day:

“The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.”

– D.H. Lawrence

Compost. What’s the Big Deal?

First, what is compost?  Compost is simply organic matter, such as grass clippings and leaves, that have been decomposed down to what looks like brown chunky dirt. Micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi, and macro-organisms such as insects and earth worms, are responsible for the decomposition process. The resulting decomposed organic matter contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous that are essential for healthy plant growth.  Think of it as giving a vitamin supplement to your favorite plant to make sure it stays vital and healthy.  Amending the soil with compost either before planting or adding it around your existing plants boosts the vitality of your landscaping. Your plants will thank you with beautiful flowers, abundant fruit, and healthy greens and roots.

Second, how do you compost?  Gardeners have many different methods of composting. No one way is the “right” way. Some gardeners build fence-like structures with removable walls to hold compost while others purchase compost tumblers that can be rotated 180 degrees to speed the compost process. Some gardeners take a hands-on approach to their compost by adding water, purchasing bacteria or worms,  adding specific percentages of brown or green organic matter, and turning the compost at specific intervals all in an effort to speed the composting process. These methods are absolutely effective in creating nutrient rich compost for your garden.

I am a simple gardener, however, and I like to let Nature do what it does naturally. Organic matter will naturally degrade over time without human intervention.  My compost pile is just that, a pile. I don’t turn it. I don’t amend it.  I simply pile leaves, garden refuse, and kitchen scraps on the pile and let nature take over. (But, my dog does take a hands-on approach every now and again in his attempt to find the tasty kitchen scraps!) Every spring, I dig at the bottom of the pile and I scrape fresh compost out with a shovel to spread in my garden. This method works for me but each gardener must choose the method that works for them.

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Compost pile: Picture by Wanette Lenling

Each gardener must determine if and how they are going to create their compost pile. Research different methods if you have never composted to see what would work best for you. Also be aware that some homeowner’s associations may not allow simple compost piles due to the messy look or smell, so the gardener may need to purchase a tumbler or build a bin in order to hide the compost. Experiment with the method that works best for you to create organic compost to add the essential nutrients to your soil for beautiful healthy plants.

For more complete and in-depth information on composting, check out this great website from the Illinois extension office. https://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/science.cfm

Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

The Simple Yet Gorgeous Hosta

Photos by Wanette Lenling

Most gardeners are familiar with the perennial plant known as a hosta, or  plantain lily.  It’s a well known staple for any shade garden.  Hostas, however, are much more versatile than most gardeners know.  There are more than 800 different varieties of hosta. There are hostas for small spaces, like the blue variety known as ‘Mouse Ears’, which is amazingly tiny at only 6 inches high and 12 inches wide.  There are also giant varieties, like the grand ‘Empress Wu’, which gets to an astounding four feet in height with enormous leaves that can reach up to 18 inches across.

The hosta comes in a wide array of colors and textures as well.  The ‘Blue Angel’ hosta is a variety of giant Hosta with a stunning blue color and a heavy, thick heart-shaped leaf that grows best in deep shade.  Other hosta varieties sport variegated foliage like the variety ‘Fire and Ice’ which has leaves with a delicate border of dark green  with a white flame-shaped patch in the center of each leaf running from the bottom of the leaf to the tip.  Another stunning variety called ‘Curly Fries’ has extremely narrow, heavily textured yellow-gold foliage that looks more like ribbon than a plant.

Along with the wide variation in size and texture, there are also hostas that will grow in a moderate amount of sunlight. The yellow varieties of hosta, such as the stunning giant variety ‘Sum and Substance’, can withstand more direct sunlight than other varieties. (Hint:  If your hosta has brown burnt edges, it may be getting too much sun, so simply move it to a shadier spot.)

If you have never tried growing the perennial plant known as hosta, give it a try.  They are extremely easy to grow and with so many varieties you are sure to find one you love.  Try the variety, ‘Guacamole’, it is one of the only hostas with a scented flower and it smells divine!

Happy Gardening!

For the Love of Gardening

This blog is for all people who have a passion for gardening. I look forward to sharing my gardening experience with you and I hope that you will comment and share your gardening experiences with me.  Gardening is a glorious experience that deserves to be shared! Continue reading “For the Love of Gardening”