Most of spring’s beauty really starts in fall
Timing is everything, or so they say. So, when you think about the spring blooms in your garden, the first thing that comes to mind is October, right? Even though we think of falling leaves, pruning and mulching, most of spring’s beauty really starts in the fall.
If you want a dazzling display of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths or other spring-flowering bulbs, the time to plant has come. If you want to force bulbs so that you have an indoor display this winter, you’ll need to start now. Hardy bulbs are those that not only tolerate the cold winter, but require a period of cold weather to stimulate blooms in the spring. They are planted in the autumn to give them time to grow roots. Most spring-flowering bulbs can be planted from late summer until the ground freezes. Since the weather was so hot this summer, any time from now until ground freeze should be ideal growing weather for establishing next year’s spring display.
It is important when you plant bulbs to make certain the planting location is well-drained. If you have a heavy clay soil, make sure you add some organic material to loosen the texture and improve the drainage. Ideally, your planting area will be worked twice as deep as the bulb needs to be planted, to encourage root development. For most bulbs, that will mean working the soil to a depth of 12 inches. If you’re buying bulbs, the package will usually indicate a planting depth. This refers to how deep the lowest part of the bulb will need to be. If you need more information, you can refer to Fact Sheet HYG 1237–98, available online at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/ 1000/1237.html
If you are eager to have blooms before spring, you can start now to set up a beautiful winter display. Hardy bulbs can be potted now for forcing later this winter. Unlike planting in the ground, forced bulbs are planted high in the pot, with the tip slightly exposed through your potting medium. Plant the bulbs close together. There is no need for potting mix with added fertilizer. Each bulb has stored all the energy it will need to flower.
Leave a little space at the top of each pot so that you can water them. As soon as they are planted, the bulbs should be watered and moved to a cool location. Most of these bulbs require 10–13 weeks of cold before you can force them. During that time, do not allow the pots to get warm or to dry out. This can be accomplished by setting your pots out in cold frame with mulch over them once the weather cools, by keeping them in an unheated garage, attic or basement, or by covering them with ventilated plastic and placing them in the vegetable area of your refrigerator.
After the required cool period has passed, move your pots to a warmer location. Ideally, you would move them to a cool room, such as a basement, that is under 65 degrees for the first week. After that, you can place the pots in your warm house. Three to four weeks later, you should have your first, early blooms.
Mark your calendars: October Community Garden Program: Plan on joining the Grow and Share Community Garden committee for the final program of 2012. Learn how to clean up the garden for fall, tools maintenance for winter, new and interesting ideas for growing potatoes (for next year), and get a list of classes and programs over the winter months to help you get ready for Spring of 2013. The program runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18, at the YMCA on Houk Road.
Wendy Wolpert is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.