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Plant Now for Spring Bloom

Crocuses

Crocuses in early April on the Bridge of Flowers

scillas and crocus

Scillas and crocus on Bridge of Flowers

If you want to have  spring bloom in your garden you have to get to work right now. Crocus, scillas and snowdrops are three of the earliest spring bloomers in the garden – or lawn. You have to start thinking about planting them in the fall if you want them spring bloom.

I planted very few crocus while living in Heath, but now that I am living in town with a sidewalk next to the front lawn and conifer bed, I feel I must add color to this spot. I have been looking through the catalogs where I can find white crocus with golden hearts, crocus in all shades of yellow and gold and crocus in pale to deep purple.

There is also a category of small crocuses, properly named tommasinianus, and more lovingly called tommies. Some consider these the ideal crocus to plant in the lawn because their foliage is finer and less likely to offend people who like to keep their lawns very neat. The foliage of any bulb needs to ripen, which is to say it should be left to its own schedule gathering sunlight which will feed the bulb for good blooming the following year.

Crocus and all the little bulbs can be planted in beds which are cared for with fertilizers and watering, but these beds are a little more likely to attract hungry squirrels. The advantage to planting any crocus in the lawn is that squirrels tend not to search them out in the grass. However, if you are going to plant crocus in the lawn the lawn should not be fertilized or watered because this will likely make the grass too vigorous and overcome the little crocus bulbs.

The crocus in its many sizes and colors may be the first early bloomer we think of, but scillas, also known as Siberian squills, have dainty blue flowers that can live happily in a lawn and turn it into a reflection of the blue spring sky.

Snowdrops in the lawn

Snowdrops in the lawn

inches high and will naturalize and spread nicely. Because the blossoms are so small, it is best to plant them where you will be able to see and enjoy that early bloom.

Snowdrops in the garden next to the house

Snowdrops in the garden next to the house

Snowdrops are not to be confused with snowflakes which is a completely different family, Leucojum aestivum. The flower of the snowflakes, sometimes called a summer snowflake even though it usually blooms in late April and May, closely resembles the snowdrop flower, a drooping white blossom with a  touch of green. However the snowflake is at least a foot tall. It is more noticeable in the garden than the snowdrop but still I think it is good to plant these small bulbs in clumps.

Because these early blooming bulbs are so tiny it is suggested that they be planted as closely as 10 to 15 bulbs in a square foot. They only need to be planted about three inches deep in soil that drains well. Too wet a location can rot bulbs. I mostly planted daffodils in my Heath lawn and my technique was to dig up about a square foot of turf, dig in a little compost and phosphorous which could be bone meal or phosphate rock. Then arrange the bulbs as per directions in the soil. I replace the piece of turf and wait for spring blooms. This technique works as well for the small bulbs. These very early spring bulbs are tiny so you need to plant a fair number of them to make them noticeable.

Fortunately these little bulbs are not terribly expensive. I have just ordered four different sets of little bulbs that ranged between $13-18 for 50 bulbs. The bulbs are small so they won’t put on much of a show next spring – but they will increase.  If I get too impatient I can buy another 200 in 2018.

Fall is also the season for planting garlic bulbs. You can buy them online. I got my first bulbs from a friend, but Filaree Garlic Farm offers about 100 varieties of hard neck and soft neck garlic. There is not much to planting garlic in the fall. It is possible to break apart a supermarket garlic bulb and plant those, but it is really a better to plant what is intended as seed garlic. The bulb will be of good size and healthy.

Like all the bulbs garlic cloves should be planted in well drained soil. Plant each clove about 6-8 inches apart in a 3 inch deep furrow. Give it agood straw mulch about 6 inches deep. In our area garlic should be planted by the end of October. In the spring you can remove most of the mulch. In addition to foliage the plant produces scapes which should be cut off because they will sap energy needed for making a nice big bulb. Those scapes are useful and can be used in recipes that call for garlic. The new bulbs can be harvested in July.

I will only be planting little bulbs this fall, but of course, if you want daffodils, tulips, alliums, low growing anemones, and more this is the time to look for bulbs in garden centers, or online. There are many choices

Between the Rows   September 9, 2016

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