Posts tagged bulbs

Gardening addiction

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

                 Over the road and across the highway to the garden center I go.  The car knows the way, never to stray………………..   I told myself I already have enough plants for this year.  Can gardening be addictive?  Unfortunately I read somewhere that June is the time to walk around the yard looking for bare spots or drab areas that could use a little sprucing up with annuals.  And June is still prime time for planting annuals whose duty is to mask those early blooming perennials and waning spring bulbs.   I‘m going scoot out of here early in the day, returning quickly and maybe nobody will notice.  Morning is the best time to plant anyway, ahead of the hot daytime sun.  Nobody will discern me watering the new plantings daily because the hanging baskets get a drink daily and the container plants every other day. My potting soil didn’t have fertilizer in it, so I’m going to try a starter solution of fertilizer when I introduce these new plants into the landscape.               The next task is weeding, also a morning chore.  It keeps me out of the hot daytime sun.  Do you agree that weeding is a bother?  Not many folks enjoy it.  Pesticides limit weeds but also discourage bees, butterflies and birds.  Our Creeping Charlie is so aggressive. Hopefully, a pesticide will slow its pace, but a layer of hardwood mulch is an alternative to commercial weed killers. 

          Grooming beds certainly dresses them up.  Deadheading, –  removing fading flowers –  improves a plant’s appearance and encourages continual bloom.  I bought a pair of good garden shears this spring. They sure make a clean cut. I’ll remove the flower buds or flowering stem back to the first set of leaves.

                Participating in an exercise class several times each week keeps my doctor happy, but playing in the dirt is certainly therapeutic.  The dog and I and sometimes a cat or two could just spend hours and hours in the gardens.  Flower or vegetable gardens each create a soothing no worry-be happy atmosphere.

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Iris open house

Iris grow beneath a statue in Wanda Lunn's gardens in 2008/ Cindy Hadish photo

Iris grow beneath a statue in Wanda Lunn's gardens in 2008/ Cindy Hadish photo

    I had the opportunity last year to visit the beautiful iris gardens of Wanda Lunn in Cedar Rapids. Wanda had 400 visitors in two days last spring and let me know that her gardens will again be open for viewing. If you get the chance, visit her home at 526 Bezdek Dr. NW from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 9, 2009, to see dwarf bearded iris, blooming shade perennials, blooming bushes and spring bulbs in bloom.

    The gardens will also be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday,  May 30, and Sunday, May 31, when 300 tall bearded iris should be in bloom. Wanda noted that instructions on planting, care and identification will be available each day.

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Waking the garden

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, who wrote this on a more pleasant day than today:

 

Yes, Mr. Rogers, it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  And presentations by Master Gardeners Deb Walser on New Perennials and Becki Lynch on Grasses at the Lawn and Garden Show last weekend got me really, really motivated to work in the yard.  As I moaned about achy muscles, my favorite Granddaughter Catie, chided me for not stretching before grabbing the rake and nippers.  Now is a great time to commence waking your flower and vegetable beds.   If you have heavy concentrations of leaves and debris in the beds packed down by snow and ice, rake them out and fire up the lawn mower or shredder.  Fluff the mulch and add the shredded leaves to the top of it. Air, water and nutrients need to reach dormant roots and bulbs. Encourage drainage.  Poorly drained soil or standing water will cause roots and bulbs to rot.  Think soil amendments.  Add compost to your beds.  If you’re thinking of having the soil tested, now is a good time and you can pick up the test from the Extension Office.    I got about half my beds trimmed and raked out today before I ran out of energy.  During a break I enjoyed cold tea instead of hot coffee, and planned further for the new bed I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  I know where the old seeder wagon and garden gate can stand.  I know approximately how much mulch and grass cloth to purchase.  And, I know about how many Hostas to buy at the Master Gardeners’ Spring Plant Sale.  I’ll broach the subject of the stone erosion control area to my favorite son at a later date.  

                 Draw a diagram of your deck and create an interesting focal point using your houseplants grouped with potted annuals.   Several years ago another Master Gardener suggested moving house plants outside for the summer.  It’s amazing how they thrive.  Just remember to keep them out of the direct, hot sunlight.  Get them ready now by repotting, if necessary.  Begin watering and fertilizing lightly and gradually increase exposure to sunlight. 

                Achy muscles aside, the fresh air and sunshine were so welcome. I’m anxious to get back out and clean up the remainder of the gardens.

                P.S. Many of you will be receiving or purchasing Hardy Oriental, Asiatic or traditional white lilies soon.  Keep them healthy by placing them in a cool, bright location in your home.  Keep the soil moist but not wet.  Perforate or remove the decorative foil so the water doesn’t collect in the decorative pot or basket.  Remember to place the pot on a saucer to prevent spills.  Continue to care for the lily after the flowers fade because they can be planted outdoors.  The planting site should be in full sun with well drained soil.  Lilies create beautiful backdrops or vertical accents.

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Forcing daffodils

The following is from the Iowa State University Extension gardening experts:

To successfully force daffodils indoors, you’ll need high quality bulbs, a well-drained commercial potting mix and suitable containers. Containers for forcing can be plastic, clay, ceramic or metal. Almost any container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Begin by partially filling the container with potting soil. Then place the daffodil bulbs on the soil surface. Adjust the soil level until the tops of the bulbs are even or slightly below the rim of the container. The number of bulbs to plant per pot depends on the size of the bulb and container. Typically, three to five bulbs are appropriate for a 6-inch-diameter pot. A 6-inch pot also will usually accommodate five to seven bulbs of miniature varieties.

Once properly positioned, place additional potting soil around the bulbs, but do not completely cover the bulbs. Allow the bulb tops (noses) to stick above the potting soil. For ease of watering, the level of the soil mix should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the rim of the container. Label each container as it is planted. Include the name of the variety and the planting date. After potting, water each container thoroughly.

In order to bloom, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 40 to 45 F for 12 to 16 weeks. Possible storage sites include the refrigerator, root cellar, or an outdoor trench. During cold storage, water the bulbs regularly and keep them in complete darkness.

Begin to remove the potted daffodil bulbs from cold storage once the cold requirement has been met. At this time, yellow shoots should have begun to emerge from the bulbs. Place the daffodils in a cool (50 to 60 F) location that receives low to medium light. Leave them in this area until the shoots turn green, usually four or five days. Then move them to a brightly lit, 60 to 70 F location.

Keep the plants well watered. Turn the containers regularly to promote straight, upright growth. On average, flowering should occur three to four weeks after the bulbs have been removed from cold storage. For a succession of bloom indoors, remove pots from cold storage every two weeks.

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Indoor spring

  Beverly Whitmore of Cedar Rapids, winner of our composting contest, told of a great way to get tulips to bloom indoors.

 

   Beverly fills a pot about two-thirds full with potting soil, inserts the bulbs so they don’t touch and covers them with potting soil.

She waters once, lets it drain and covers the pot with aluminum foil.

   The next part is key – keeping the pots in a cold, dark place. Beverly has a part of her basement that stays dark and gets cold enough – it needs to freeze –  but an unheated garage might also work. In the spring, plants will pop through the foil.  Carefully remove the foil, water again and keep indoors until they bloom.

 

 

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October advice

    Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith submitted the following:

 

My 2008 Iowa State University Extension Service Garden Calendar—a plethora of recommendations and advice each month –suggests an October visit to a pumpkin patch for the perfect Jack-O-Lantern candidate.  My favorite daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter have enjoyed this family tradition for several years.   Now 7-year-old Catie has managed a larger specimen every year.   This year, 2-year-old Charlie will say “Me Too, Mommy” as he stubbornly grapples with as much pumpkin as he can manage to drag out of the patch.  Girly-girl Catie enjoys decorating, but not cleaning out the “innards”.  I’d bet my All-Boy Charlie will love every minute of the mess!   No kids at home?  No Grandkids around?  Go ahead!  Be a kid again, go visit a Pumpkin farm soon. 

                Other suggestions from the calendar for October are:

                                Continue to mow the lawn until the grass stops growing

                                Apply fertilizer to the lawn, but not to perennials or trees

                                Compost fall leaves

                                Plant spring flowering bulbs.

 

                                On that last note, here are some recommendations for brightening your days next spring:  Bulbs are usually inexpensive.

Follow the directions on the packages.

               

    Plant in mass:  four large and nine small bulbs per square foot.  The smaller the bulb, the larger the grouping should be. 

    Generally, bulbs should be planted at a depth of two to three times the height of the bulb.

   Place the bulb “tip” side up (that’s not the root side).  If in doubt, place the bulb on its side!

   Plant in well draining soil.

   Chicken wire placed under, around and on top of bulbs deter rodents. 

Water the area thoroughly and apply about 2” of mulch after the first frost. 

Apply fertilizer three times per year:  in the fall for the roots, in the spring when the sprouts first poke through and then when the flower dies.

   Deer tend to avoid daffodils, alliums, and snowdrops. 

Tulips and crocus seem to be the bulbs-of-choice.

               

So, after you’ve been to the pumpkin patch, go visit your favorite garden shop and get to planting. 

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Love me tender

James Romer, Iowa Master Gardener Coordinator at Iowa State University Extension, offers the following on tender perennials:

Tender perennials are an integral part of many home landscapes in the Midwest. Most have a long blooming period and put on excellent displays of color until it freezes in the fall. The biggest problem with tender perennials is that they will not survive Iowa’s harsh winter weather if left outdoors. The following tender perennials should be dug in the fall and stored indoors until spring graces our doorsteps once again.

Tuberous begonias (Begonia xtuberhybrida) come in a wide assortment of colors and types. Some of the flower forms include camellia, cascade, carnation, picotee and non-stop series. Container-grown plants can be brought indoors for winter enjoyment. Those tubers left outside should be dug after a killing frost. To properly condition the tubers for storage, place them in a warm, dry location for approximately two weeks. Then bury the tubers in a box or sack filled with sphagnum moss or vermiculite. Store them in a cool, dry location.

Caladium (Caladium xhortulanum) is a great plant in the shade. The caladium is grown for its colorful foliage rather than its flowers. When the foliage dies back in the fall, carefully lift the tubers out of the soil and find a warm, dry place to cure them. Typically the process is complete in two weeks. Store the tubers in dry sand, vermiculite or sphagnum moss in a cool (50 F), frost-free area.

Gladiolus (Gladiolus hybrids) is stunning in the garden and in arrangements, but they need to be dug and tucked away for the winter months. The gladiolus or glad develops from a growing structure called a corm. A corm is a short, thickened underground stem where food is stored. When the foliage has yellowed, lift the corms carefully, cut off the foliage 1 to 2 inches above the corm and allow drying for a week in a sunny location. Corms can be treated with a fungicide to prevent disease while in storage. Remove and discard the remains of the old mother corm located at the bottom of the large, healthy corm. Place the corms in old onion sacks or nylon stockings. Then store the corms in a cool, dry, frost-free location until spring planting occurs.

Though calla lilies (Zandedeschia spp.) are tropical in appearance, they can be successfully grown in the Midwest. After the foliage has been damaged by a frost, cut off the tops about 2 inches above the soil line. Dry the calla rhizomes in a warm, dry location for one or two weeks. Bury the rhizomes in vermiculite, sawdust or peat moss, and store in a cool (45 to 55 F), frost-free area.

The large, banana-like foliage of the canna (Canna xgeneralis) stands out in the garden. Some can get to be about six feet in height, while others top the two to three-foot range. After a killing frost, cut the stems back to about 3-4 inches above the soil. Carefully dig up the rhizomes, let them dry for a few hours, and then place them in crates or mesh bags. Store at 35 to 45 F.

Dahlias (Dahlia hybrids) stand out like beacons in the summer garden. With more than 40,000 varieties to choose from, it’s difficult to not like at least one. After a killing frost has destroyed the foliage, the top of the dahlia should be cut away, and the tubers should be carefully dug and labeled with the variety name. Wash the tubers with water to remove as much soil as possible. This lessens the chance for soil insects to destroy the tubers while in storage. Dry the tubers in a site protected from strong winds and out of direct sunlight. When the tubers become dry to the touch, remove any portion of the stalk that remains and place the tubers upside down in vermiculite to ensure that any water in the remaining crown tissue drains out.

Although all of these plants require more work to keep than your average perennial, their attractive flowers and foliage are well worth the extra effort.

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