If you want this in the spring…
You need to get busy planting now!
CHOOSING A SITE
There are two key things to consider when choosing a site for your bulbs.
The first is sunlight. Most bulbs need several hours of sunshine to bloom well next spring and to store up the energy they need to flower the following year.
The second thing to consider when choosing your planting site is drainage. All bulbs need good drainage. Bulbs that are planted in areas that tend to remain wet will in most likely rot leaving you extremely disappointed come spring. A heavy clay soil can be improved by digging in an organic matter like composted manure or compost.
HOW TO PLANT
There are basically two options for planting bulbs. Depending on how many bulbs you are planting (hopefully hundreds!), you can either plant a large area at one time or plant bulbs individually. If you have enough bulbs to cover a fairly large area, it may be smart to excavate the area to be planted and loosen the soil to the recommended depth (usually 6-8”) for the type of bulbs you have. Set the bulbs in the bed with the point facing up, grouped by color or randomly placed and gently replace the soil. If the soil is very dry as it has been here in the Lakes Region this fall, water it thoroughly.
The other option is to plant each bulb individually by digging each hole with a trowel or bulb planter. Again, loosen the soil to the correct depth, put one bulb in each hole, cover gently and water. This is an option – if we could twist your arm, we would make you plant bulbs in groups though. The impact is much better than a bulb here and a bulb there!
WHEN TO PLANT
Most bulbs come with instructions for a best-case scenario planting schedule. We usually miss that and go ahead and plant them anyway! You should, too! The ideal time for planting most bulbs is at least six weeks before a solid, ground-freezing frost. Planting too early may leave bulbs vulnerable to rot or fungus and planting too late may not give them enough time to root and establish themselves for blooming in the spring. A lot of what you read about ideal planting time for zones 4 and 5 will tell you late September through early October is the best time. IGNORE this rule most years! Successful spring flower displays require bulbs to be planted once we have had at least 2 weeks of 40-45 degree nights. At that point, soil temperature here in the Lakes Region should be just perfect for planting bulbs.
This part is easy! Water thoroughly after planting if the soil is dry. After that, forget about it, at least here in New Hampshire. Supplemental watering in the spring, especially after bulbs bloom, may cause them to rot.
Bulbs that you purchase to plant this fall already have next year’s flowers set inside them, so there is no need to fertilize at planting time. You can generally do without fertilizer entirely as most bulbs are not heavy feeders, but if you amend your soil with an organic supplement like compost or manure in the spring, it certainly won’t hurt the bulbs.
CARING FOR BULBS AFTER THEY BLOOM
This bit of info may help you decide where you plant your bulbs in the first place. You can deadhead the flower of the tulip once it fades, but bulbs get the energy they need to bloom the following year from their foliage. For this reason you need to let the foliage die back naturally. This can take quite a while and often looks unsightly as you plan your late spring garden. Short cuts like braiding, tying up or burying foliage before it has died back, impedes the natural process the bulb needs to go through in order to bloom again the following year. For this reason, a lot of gardeners simply cut back foliage, dig out bulbs and start over again with new ones in the fall, or dedicate an area exclusively to bulbs. That way the bulbs don’t interfere with annual and perennial plantings.
BULB EATING CRITTERS
Unfortunately, your bulb display could fall victim to hungry squirrels or deer before they ever get a chance to bloom. Tulips apparently make a nice meal. One way to avoid losing your spring display is to lay chicken wire across the planting zone. Light and water can get through and so can the flower when it grows in the spring. There are a few bulbs that are truly deer and rodent proof. They are members of the Amaryllis family, which includes daffodils. They have a toxic alkaloid called lycorine that mammals can detect and won’t eat. Other bulbs such as Allium and Fritillaria are also known to be unpleasant to smell and eat. Plant some of these in and around the more appetizing varieties and you may just be OK!
Spring Flowering Tulips
Bulbs that flower in spring must be planted in Fall. There is no getting around this requirement.
No matter how large or small your garden, almost everyone can find room for a few spring bulbs. Trust me…you’ll be delighted that you did after a cold, grey winter. There are many different bulbs to choose from, but if this is your first foray into bulbs keep it simple. Daffodils deliver!
You will get more flowers for a longer time with less care than any other bulbs you can plant. They’ll thrive just about anywhere, and they come back year after year in ever greater numbers. Over time, even a small planting of 20 bulbs will gradually become a swath of color with a hundred or more blooms. Daffodils do well in flowerbeds but will do well planted just about anywhere in your landscape. In fact, you may find that you would rather put bulbs anywhere BUT in your flowerbeds. Next year’s flower forms during the three or four weeks after flowering. During this time the plant needs its leaves to generate the nutrients to form a new flower. It’s important to leave the foliage alone until it yellows and begins to wither. At that point, you can cut the foliage or gently tug on it to pull it away from the bulb. Most people don’t want this yellowy foliage hanging around taking up valuable planting space in beds so go on ahead and plant them groups of daffodils under a tree, in a field, or against a stone wall for a natural look. Although mostly found in shades of yellow, there are beautiful shades of cream, peach and orange available as well.
Tulips are spring color powerhouses that come in every imaginable color and size. You need to plant a lot of them to make a beautiful display. Think dozens, not handfuls. Tulips almost always put on the best show during the first year, but many varieties tend to taper off in following years. If you don’t want to repeat your planting every year look for perennial tulip species that are fairly reliable year after year. Otherwise, yank them out after they bloom and start planning your color pallet for next year. Tulip bulbs prefer cool, moist springs and hot, dry summers, which is not what they usually get in the Lakes Region of NH. There are perennial tulips species that return reliably year after year, but they come with a higher price tag. Stick with those if you don’t want to recreate your display every year.
A mass bulb planting may sound like a lot of work, but it’s fairly simple. Find an area you want for your bulbs and dig a trench approximately 6”–8” deep. Planting depth is important. A general rule is to measure the height of the bulb itself and then plant it three to four times deeper than that. For a tulip bulb 2 inches high, you need to dig a hole that’s at least six to eight inches deep. Pour the bulbs in, roughly 15-25 per square foot of trench, arrange them randomly with the point facing up. Cover the bulbs with the excavated soil, press it firmly and rake over the area.
Today you can buy bulbs almost everywhere–including the grocery store and big-box chain stores. The price may be right, but most of these bulbs are undersized. And when it comes to bulbs, the bigger the bulb you plant, the bigger the bloom next spring. A bigger bulb also increases the likelihood that your bulbs will flower for more than one year. For best results, bulbs should be kept in cold storage with controlled humidity until being shipped to you. We recommend purchasing bulbs from a direct importer/catalog or local garden center.
You should get your bulbs into the ground in Lakes Region gardens in early to mid-fall (don’t wait for a finger-freezing day in late October). Tulip bulbs need at least 14 weeks of temperatures below 48 degrees. Bulbs should be planted when the soil has cooled to about 55 degrees and need the cool soil to make roots before the onset of winter. You have about 8 weeks to plant after the first frost. As long as the ground is not frozen, you can still plant bulbs.
Composting helps to ensure a healthy lawn
Why Compost Your Lakes Region Lawn?
The soil in your lawn contains living microorganisms including bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. Without getting too technical lets just say that a healthy soil has lots of biological life and these organisms need organic matter (compost) to survive and thrive. This living-soil-life helps with soil health, decomposition of organic matter, replenishing of nutrients, humus formation, promotion of root growth, nutrient uptake, and herbicide and pesticide breakdown.
Your earthworm population will increase as your organic matter increases, which will help increase nutrient levels, water levels and penetration and aeration as they move through the soil.
Compost adds organic matter into your garden soil that increases the population of soil microorganisms, which in turn help control plant diseases.
The addition of compost may also provide greater drought resistance and more efficient water utilization. Therefore, the frequency and intensity of irrigation may be reduced.
When To Compost Your Lakes Region Lawn
After aerating (or even if you don’t aerate), topdress the turf surface with a 1/4″ layer of compost. The compost will settle into the soil, adding nutrition and structure that will serve the grass roots well the following season.
Then spreading an inch of compost on the newly aerated lawn will provide a perfect fall feeding, dramatically improve the organic matter content of your soil, and provide a perfect seed bed for the final step of filling in bare spots with fresh seed. And it’s easy — just have a big load of compost delivered, shovel it into wheelbarrow loads, dump them out on the lawn and then use a rake to spread it all around as evenly as possible… or call Miracle Farms if you need a hand with fall lawn services.
Next, spread new seed to fill in bare spots. Just sow the seed by hand or in a spreader and gently rake it into that wonderful compost. Don’t put down straw or other nonsense — it limits the germination and looks awful going forward.
Gently water the lawn for half an hour morning and night until the seed sprouts, which will be quick in this perfect weather. After it sprouts, cut back to morning only, and if our weather pattern shifts and we begin to get more reliable rain, you won’t need to water at all.
Will compost eliminate the need for commercial fertilizers? Not necessarily which is not a straight answer, but there really isn’t one. Depending on what nutrients your soil is lacking (or has an abundance of) certain organic fertilizer will be necessary. In addition to providing nutrients (both micro and macro), compost helps make fertilizer more effective in the soil.
In order to maintain a healthy lawn, your soil requires water, air, and nutrients. Lawns become compacted with normal use including foot traffic and lawn mowing. All lawns need aerating at some point, but depending on the conditions and use of your lawn, your soil may require aerating more or less often than typical.
Lawn aeration is the process of mechanically removing 2”-4” soil plugs and small portions of thatch from the lawn. Lawn aeration relieves soil compaction and improves the ability of roots to grow deeper into the soil and expand. Aeration is generally recognized as the best way to improve air and gas exchange, along with water and fertilizer intake. Lawns that receive this care will be healthier, easier to maintain and have fewer pest problems than lawns that are neglected. It is preferable to aerate your lawn in the fall when new root development is more prevalent.
You should be able to see the ‘thatch’ layer, as it should be about 1/2″ thick or so just underneath the grass and above the dirt. “Thatch” refers to the non-decomposed layer of organic material between the soil surface and the living grasses. When thatch build up becomes too thick, the turf’s roots cannot receive proper airflow, nutrients or water. This leads to thin, patchy, and yellowing grass. This is when aeration becomes necessary.
Some homeowners have trouble determining if unhealthy grass is due to soil compaction, thatch buildup, or another issue, such as poor fertilization. Let Miracle Farms help you to determine the best plan to get your lawn in tip-top condition. Don’t have time to aerate your lawn, or have a large property that needs aeration? Our lawn care experts would be happy to provide the help you need!
We’ve all been enjoying the spectacular colors of fall for a couple of weeks here in the Lakes Region, but we know what’s right around the corner… even before the first snow fall… the dreaded fall cleanup! Although it is tempting to rake them into piles and jump in a few times, a proper cleanup requires a bit more work. Leaf clean-up is just a small piece of the big job that will leave your yard looking its best next spring. A complete fall clean-up is the key to preparing your entire landscape for winter and giving it a boost for spring.
Here are some tips for a last minute fall clean-up:
Leaving the leaves creates several problems for your lawn. It will deprive the grass of needed sunlight and cause brown patches. Leaves can also suffocate the lawn by depriving a flow of oxygen and they trap moisture potentially creating fungus issues.
Give your lawn a last mow, a little shorter than normal. Prune any dead wood. Lifeless limbs can fall victim to snowfall and wind endangering you and your home.
Perennials should be dead-headed to promote healthy spring growth. Trim spent foliage down to the ground; this sends energy to the roots, for next season. Every three years, divide crowded tuberous plants, like irises and daylilies: More space means more flowers.
The time and expense of a proper fall clean-up will not only pay off come spring with a beautiful and healthy yard but will also create a perfect backdrop Christmas lights and decorations.
Any heavy raking of lawn areas should be done now and not the in spring when lawns are more tender. Although it’s too late in the Lakes Region now to over-seed, we do recommend a core aeration and topdressing with a layer of compost, especially areas that were thin or trampled.
Protect any pots or containers that are vulnerable to cold weather. Soil will expand inside pots as temperatures drop below freezing causing cracks. Move them undercover and tip them upside down to prevent water from collecting inside.
It’s not too late to get bulbs into the ground for a spectacular spring show. You may even get more for your money at end of year sales if you still have the energy to plant!
If this is just too much work for you to think about, then call Miracle Farms and let us help you put your Lakes Region landscape to bed for the winter.