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Home grown: Mary Pellerito

Spring bulbs for outdoors, indoors

November 10, 2010 - Some gardeners are tired of working in the garden and don't plant many, if any, bulbs. By spring, the gardens look a bit drab. Others order early-, mid-, and late-blooming bulbs in the right colors to fit beautifully into our landscape. And a third group picks the budget-friendly mixes and plants them throughout their garden beds.

Regardless, here are a few tips to ensure beautiful spring blooms.

• Bulbs don't like growing in wet places, so choose a well-drained area to plant bulbs. Otherwise, the bulbs will rot.

• Bulbs are not picky about soil fertility. I simply add compost to the holes as I plant.

• To plant bulbs, you can use a bulb planter and dig individual holes for each bulb. Be sure to plant bulbs in groups of three or more.

I dig a large hole and plant bulbs willy-nilly. Be sure to add soil a little at a time so you keep the pointy side of the bulb pointing up. The hole should be about three times the height of the bulb. Again, bulbs are not very picky. I spend my time obsessing about my roses and leave my bulbs to there own devices.

Naturalizing spring bulbs is my favorite way to plant bulbs. I choose sites throughout the yard and simply toss handful of bulbs where I want them to go. I do keep tulips where the deer won't get them since tulip bulbs are a favorite deer treat. Deer do not like daffodils so go crazy.

Forcing bulbs is simply giving the bulbs a compressed life cycle: dormant bulb; long, cold period, then light and warmth. When I purchase my spring bulbs, I keep the biggest and fattest for indoor use. I fill plastic pots with potting soil and I crowd the bulbs in the pots. The top of the bulb should be poking out of the soil to encourage fast growth.

Spring bulbs need about 12 weeks of cold temperatures, between 35 and 50 degrees so I put the pots with the spring bulbs in the refrigerator.

You can also put the pots in the garage, shed, or cold-frame.

Keep the bulbs moist during their time in the cold. When you bring the bulbs indoors, wake the bulbs slowly in a cool, bright place, no more than 55 degrees.

In January, this is in my basement. Once there are flower buds, I place the plastic pot in ceramic pots and set the pots around the house where I can enjoy them.

When the flowers are finished, I give the bulbs a dose of bulb fertilizer and plant them outside when the ground thaws. I have not had luck with tulip bulbs blooming two years in a row, so I treat tulip bulbs as annuals.

Hopefully, with these tips, you can enjoy spring bulbs February through May.

Mary Pellerito is a garden writer living in Brandon Township. She is a Master Gardener and a member of Wild Ones. Contact Mary at mary.pellerito@gmail.com.

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