Now that we’ve moved into the next phase of spring — a stable phase when the threat of a random snowfall is safely behind us and temperatures are more consistently predictable — a new crop of blooms have begun to emerge. I’ve been happily carrying at least one camera around with me, capturing observations I happen upon on my routine errands.
Hooray for forsythia! My childhood memories of springtime are very connected to puffy bushes of these bright yellow blooms bursting on every front lawn regardless of the neighborhood. Forsythia is one of those plants that the classes seem to agree on — just about anyone can afford a small bush and no one is too good for its bright and cheery flowers.
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) This is the violet commonly found filling up lawns.
Elephant Ears (Bergenia cordifolia)
Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) This is one of those pretty spring-blooming bulbs that naturalizes well. They are popping up all over the place these days and seem to last longer than some flowering bulbs that come and go with barely a chance to enjoy them.
Question: I bought several cheap bags of daffodils and tulips on clearance this past December but didn’t get them into the ground on time. Spring is right around the corner, can I still plant them?
Don’t toss those bulbs! Despite all the fuss about proper planting times, most bulbs are hardy little packages that can be saved with some minor intervention. Heaps of bulbs are hard on the wallet — off-season specials are a smart way to create an endless parade of spring blooms on the cheap. Of course, some bulbs are on sale for a reason, so choose firm, plump bulbs and leave shriveled or moldy bulbs at the store.
Dutch bulbs such as daffodils and tulips require some chill time before spring planting. Daffodils require approximately 12-16 weeks, while tulips call for a lengthy 14-20 weeks. Stash your bulbs bare inside mesh or paper bags and pop them into your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Keep them away from apples or other ripe fruit since the ethylene gas they emit can cause your bulbs to rot. Take a peek every once and a while to be sure they haven’t mummified in the bag — good ventilation is key. Don’t freak out if they start to grow gnarly sprouts — a living bulb is a good bulb! And if they do nothing: that’s okay too.
To give your bulbs an added edge, try pre-planting them into containers of potting soil. Chill in an unheated garage, cold cellar, or shed and water them now and then to help form roots right in the pot.
Try and wait until the minimum chill time has passed before planting your bulbs out in the garden. Needless to say, you stand nothing to lose if they have to go outside early. Most bulbs won’t survive a year in regular storage so better late than never. Bloom time is bound to be off schedule this year, or won’t happen at all. No worries, your plants will reschedule themselves and produce heaps of flowers next spring.
I was just thinking… seems like THE HOLIDAY SEASON is here, or something. I am very good at shutting out that which I would rather not see but with the powers that be pummeling us over the head with it earlier and earlier every year, it’s kinda hard to miss. Really, I don’t hate the holidays, what I hate is the assumption of obligation and the fact that while so many people start out with good intentions MANY seem to be in a passive-aggressive snit by mid-December. I think we should all just agree to collectively stay in bed in our pajamas watching 80′s era teen movies and call it a day. How’s that for Peace on Earth!
I don’t like giving or getting a bunch of useless crap that carries all kinds of layers of guilt and I sure don’t condone adding to that burden by HANDCRAFTING something that will only find it’s way to the thrift store pile once the guilt wears off — that’s a drag for everyone involved. However, I also really like making and receiving homemade gifts. It keeps me off the cold, winter streets and away from the madness of the mall, and becomes it’s own form of Holiday-related art therapy. I enjoy thinking about the giftee and hatching a plan to make something suitable to them, their personality, and taste.
I compiled this list of Affordable and Homemade Holiday Gifts for plant lovers a few years back. Some of the projects are kits or items I have made and some are ideas that give the gift of time rather than material goods. For example, I have been making these Herbal Bath Teas for a long time and often make a few extras as a gift to myself. A Garden Help I.O.U is one of the best gifts I can think of for a gardener since many of us could use an extra hand with some of the difficult chores.
Sure you can buy inexpensive Forced Bulb Kits just about anywhere these days but I guarantee you that what you can put together for the same price will be of a much higher quality. Most of the kits I see come with ugly plastic pots and lousy soil — don’t let the fancy box fool you. Many of them have been sitting on the shelf so long that the bulbs are dessicated, diseased or dead by the time they reach the recipient. You can put together a much nicer kit using a thrifted ceramic container, quality bulbs purchased at a local nursery (where you can hand-select the bulbs yourself), and a bag of reasonably good soil. Don’t forget to let your recipients know they can save most bulbs and plant them out in their garden next year. Amaryllis bulbs can be kept for several seasons too.
Of course I can’t write about gifts for gardeners and burgeoning gardeners without mentioning the 2007 You Grow Girl Calendar or the You Grow Girl book. The book itself also has instructions for a number of projects I have made and given as gifts including: a groovy gardening apron, chalkboard pots (don’t forget to include a stick of chalk), herbal teas (including easy-sew, reusable tea bags), gardener’s hand salve, gardener’s journal, and more.
Guest post by Emira Mears
The only remaining bulbs I had on my list to plant for the Fall was my garlic. Planting out the garlic required a bit more preparation as I had to clean up some space in my veggie beds getting rid of finished beans, cukes and some arugula that had bolted and I swear was making a run for the basement door, before I would have room to put the garlic in.
This will be my first time growing garlic and so far I’ve already learned a lot. For starters, I ordered way too much (so if you’re in Canada and would like some lovely garlic to plant let me know via ourdomicile at gmail dot com and perhaps we can work something out in the way of a trade) getting a bit confused by the whole bulb vs. clove business when I placed my bulb orders. You see, it was obvious to me when they arrived, but for some reason not so obvious when I placed the order that five bulbs of garlic meant five bulbs full of a bunch of wee cloves that then get broken up and planted individually. But I was thinking more along the lines of 5 bulbs = 5 bulbs to plant like with my tulip order and so foolishly ordered 10 thinking that was quite conservative. I now have planted about 40 cloves of garlic and have some extras for those who are interested.
Anyway. I woke up to another sunny day yesterday and decided I would use the opportunity to get my garlic in the ground. I did a bit of web searching and discovered that there are all kinds of opinions about what one has to do to grow good garlic. Many of the web sites I read stressed the difference between “growing garlic” (which is apparently easy) and “growing good garlic” which is apparently trickier. I followed the advice of a few handy tips I read online and soaked the cloves in a mixture of baking soda (1 heaping tablespoon for one bowl containing the cloves of 5 bulbs) and water for a few hours to make it easier to slip off the skins and apparently to help kill any fungus that might be on the cloves. I also read suggestions to add liquid seaweed to this mixture to help feed the garlic but I didn’t have any around the house and I was feeling mighty impatient (and like this may be my last sunny Sunday of the season). I then prepped the soil, turning it over well and adding some compost. After that I undertook the very laborious task of peeling the skin off all those cloves which took a fair while, and then drained the baking soda liquid off to replace it with a quick soak in some 100 proof vodka. This was recommended as a further way to ensure any fungus on the garlic was killed, and given the wiff of garlic/vodka I got as I was planting these little nuggets I’d say that was successful.
I planted them at a 2″ depth about 4″ apart and was careful to mark all my spots so I don’t dig them up again next Spring. I’ve also read in numerous spots now that applying some mulch to the ground for the winter is a good idea to help keep them warm. I had been planning on mulching my veggie beds anyway to help keep weeds down and add nutrients so now I’ve got an extra incentive. If even half of my garlic comes up we’ll be doing pretty well, which is great as I use a lot of it in the kitchen and even more when I’m preserving in the Summer. I’ll let you know how it goes and if I suspect any of these tips were useful, but I’m afraid you’ll have to sit tight for a good six months or so to find out.