Category Archives: Growing

Planting and Caring for Flower Bulbs

There is nothing quite as welcome as those beautiful spring flowers that seem to emerge from nowhere to welcome the arrival of spring. Bulb type flowers are really unique plants, because they spend most of their days resting quietly beneath the surface of the soil. Then right on schedule, up they come, full of bloom and vigor, and then almost as fast as they came, they go. Except for the green leafy part of the plant that tends to linger longer than we would like them to.

Despite their short bloom time and unattractive foliage after the blooms are gone, they are still a wonderful addition to any landscape. But how should you care for them? First let’s talk about how to use them in your landscape. Flowers of all kinds are best when planted in groupings. Many people buy 25 or 50 bulbs and just go around the yard planting helter skelter. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but when planted that way they tend to blend in with the landscape and really don’t show up well at all. When you plant them in large groups they are a breathtaking showpiece.

In the early spring start thinking about where you would like to create a bed for flower bulbs. Prepare the bed by raising it with good rich topsoil, and if at all possible add some well composted cow manure. Do this in the spring while you are in the gardening mood; you may not be in the fall. Over the summer fill the bed with annual flowers to keep the weeds down, and to pretty up your yard for the summer. Come fall all you have to do is pull out the annuals and plant your bulbs to the depth recommended on the package.

If you think you could have a problem with squirrels digging up the bulbs and eating them, you can also wrap the bulbs in steel wool, leaving just the tip of the bulb exposed so it can grow out of the little wire cage you’ve created. Or you can just plant the bulbs and then cover the bed with chicken wire or plastic fencing until the bulbs start to grow in the spring.

When the bulbs come up in the spring and start blooming, you should clip off the blooms as they start to wither. This keeps the bulb from producing seeds, which requires a lot of energy, and you want the bulb to use all of its available energy to store food in preparation for the bulb’s resting period. Once the bulbs are completely done blooming you don’t want to cut off the tops until they are withered and die back. The million dollar question is how to treat the tops until that happens.

Many people bend them over and slip a rubber band over them, or in the case of bulbs like Daffodils tie them with one of the long leaves. This seems to work because it is a very common practice among many experienced gardeners. However, Mike is about to rain on the parade.

I strongly disagree with this theory because back about 6th grade we learned about photosynthesis in science class. To recap what we learned, and without going into the boring details, photosynthesis is the process of the plant using the sunís rays to make food for itself. The rays from the sun are absorbed by the foliage and the food making process begins. In the case of a flower bulb this food is transported to the bulb beneath the ground and stored for later use.

So basically the leaves of the plant are like little solar panels. Their job is to absorb the rays from the sun to begin the process known as photosynthesis. If we fold them over and handcuff them with their hands behind their back, they are not going to be able to do their job. Itís like throwing a tarpaulin over 80% of a solar panel.

In order for the leaves to absorb the rays from the sun, the surface of the foliage has to be exposed to the sun. On top of that, when you bend the foliage over, you are restricting the flow of nutrients to the bulb. The veins in the leaves and the stem are a lot like our blood vessels. If you restrict them the flow stops.

You decide. I’ve presented my case. Bending them over seems to work, but I’ve spent a lot of money on my bulbs. I want them running at full speed. What I do is clip the blooms off once they are spent, and just leave the tops alone until they are yellow and wilted. If they are still not wilted when it’s time to plant my annual flowers, I just plant the annuals in between the bulbs. As the bulbs die back the annuals tend to grow and conceal them. If one shows through I clip it off. It seems to work well for me.

How To Ensure Early Bulbs Bloom, Year After Year

Do you notice when visiting gardens the great quantities of Daffodils and other early bulbs that we plant to herald in the spring. But how do we ensure we have a great display each year?

The early flowering bulbs

Quite a few seasoned gardeners have had their first horticultural experience by the planting of a few Daffodil or Tulip bulbs, thus spurring them onto more adventurous plantings. At the end of April the very early flowering bulbs will come to the end of their blooming season. This group of early bloomers includes Daffodils, Hyacinths, Bluebells, Crocus, Snowdrops and early Tulips. All these bulbs will flower well for any gardener the first growing season but for them to bloom well the following seasons we must give them some care.

Die-back not tieback

All bulbs leaves must be allowed a minimum of six weeks after flowering to die down, so if these bulbs are planted in a lawn that area of lawn must remain uncut for six weeks. Refrain from tying your Daffodil leaves in knots to neaten their appearance, also avoid folding them over and securing with rubber bands. If the bulbs leaves are naturally allowed to die back then they will take in the energy for next years flowering. I would also recommend nipping off the spent flower heads on bulbs once flowering is finished, this will prevent the bulb using vital energy for seed production instead using all that energy to bulk up its food store for next season.

Don’t forget to feed

The final tip for blooming bulbs next spring is to feed your bulbs, this is especially important if you have a hungry soil. Apply a foliage feed to the fully emerged leaves before the blooms start to form. Choose a general purpose purpose liquid feed.I would also advise you to feed your bulbs just as the blooms have faded with a granular bulb fertilizer applied around the bulbs base. This is the most important feed they will receive. Ensure this feed has a higher potassium or potash content than nitrogen content. Apply according to the manufacturers instructions and heed safety warnings.

Rose Gardening Tasks for Early Spring

Rose Gardening Tasks for Early Spring
Rose Gardening Tasks forEarly Spring

When should you start preparing your rose garden for the onset of spring and summer? Well, if you live in an area where you can start seeing the promise of spring in late March or early April, then you’re an “early spring” rose gardener. However, if you live where March and April still brings icy rain and snow, then just keep waiting out old man winter until your turn at spring arrives and then follow the tips in this article.

Early spring is a time of great activity in the rose garden as you prepare for the beautiful buds that will be sprouting almost any day. Here’s a summary of what needs to be done in order to prepare your roses for the tough growing season that lies ahead.

If you covered your roses with dirt or mulch, your first step is to gently remove the protective materials so you can introduce your dormant bushes to the warming spring sun and rains that lie ahead.

Before beginning your spring pruning activities, cut back any dead and damaged canes that did not survive the winter. Be sure to clear away any debris and residue from around the bushes as well.

Prepare the soil to nurture your plants by adding some organic compounds. You can either buy pre-packaged organics from your favorite garden supplier, or you can mix up your own recipe using composted manure or mushroom compost, or any of the usual meal blends which can include alfalfa, cottonseed, fish or blood meal. See below for some suggestions.

Work your soil with a spade or hoe if it has become too compacted during the winter or if you notice standing water after watering your plants. Roses require well-drained soil to thrive.

After soil preparation is done you can plant any new additions to your garden including container grown roses.

Next it is time to begin your fungicide spraying regiment either immediately or, if you prefer to wait, approximately 14 days after you complete your pruning. Opinions on the best time differ. The choice is yours.

Remember to rotate through different fungicides during the year to prevent any fungi from becoming immune to any one product.

Don’t use any pesticides unless you see evidence of damage, but remember to keep a sharp eye out for aphids which are as much a sign of spring as April showers are. Hit them with a blast of water to remove them, or apply insecticide in a mister to the affected areas.

Imagine how hungry you’d be if you just woke up from a long winter hibernation! Well, your Roses are hungry too. The best way to coax them from dormancy to budding is to feed them now and every other week through the remainder of the growing season. Water well after feeding! Feed with a fertilizer balanced for Nitrogen (N), Phosphates (P2O5) and Potash (K2O). Nitrogen stimulates the growth of leaves and canes and increases the size of the bush. Phosphate stimulates the growth of roots, canes and
stems and speeds up flowering. Potash stimulates the production of top quality blooms and improves the drought and disease resistance of the plant. A good balanced fertilizer with these elements is 10-10-10.

Another popular spring fertilizer is Osmocote which is a controlled release fertilizer that releases nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium depending on soil temperature. The 18-6-12 (8 to 9 month term) formulation is recommended for this area. Osmocote is also available with trace elements added in a product with the name of Sierra 17-6-10 Plus Minors Controlled Release Fertilizer

There! Your rose garden is ready for spring, but remember your work is far from over. If spring is near then summer can’t be far behind. Read our summer article at http://www.RoseGarden-How-To.com to learn how
to prepare your roses for the coming summer heat.

Fight the Winter Blues – Grow Nutritious Microgreens Indoors

Microgreens photo_credit_MelindaMyersLLC
Microgreens photo_credit_MelindaMyersLLC

Dress up salads, sandwiches and snacks with homegrown microgreens. “These mini sprouts are easy to grow indoors, ready to harvest in less than two weeks and require no special growing equipment,” says gardening expert Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses Food Gardening for Everyone DVD set. Myers shared these tips for getting started:

Simply purchase seeds labeled for microgreen growing or organic sprouts such as sunflowers, kale, radish or cilantro. These are meant for this purpose and have not been treated with harmful chemicals.

Radish microgreens add a bit of zip to salads and sandwiches. Cilantro microgreens have a similar, but much milder taste than leaves harvested from a mature plant. Kids of all ages love sunflower sprouts. They have a nutty flavor and make a tasty snack when eaten alone.

Sprout seeds in a shallow container with drainage holes. Purchase sprouting containers or make some from clean repurposed fast food containers. Just punch holes in the bottom for drainage. Use the clear tops to create a mini greenhouse, helping retain heat and moisture to speed sprouting.

Fill the container with a quality seed starting mix like Hsu Germination+ organic seed starting mix that retains moisture and contains naturally occurring beneficial soil microbes. Leave about half an inch of space between the lip of the container and the seed starting mix.

Sprinkle seeds over the soil surface and lightly press them into the soil. Water seeds in place with a very gentle stream of water or spray bottle. Cover the planted container to increase humidity and speed sprouting. Place in a warm dark location.

Once the greens break through the soil, remove the cover and move the container to a sunny location or under artificial lights. Water often enough to keep the seed starting mix moist, but not too wet.

The microgreens are ready to harvest once they form a set of true leaves that look like those of the plants sprouting. This takes about 10 to 14 days and the microgreens will be about two inches tall.

Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the greens just above the soil surface. Rinse thoroughly right before serving. Store any extra unwashed greens in a ventilated plastic bag for several days in the refrigerator.

Microgreens are easy to grow and tasty to eat, tempting many to plant even more. For a continual supply of this nutritious treat, simply plant a new batch every four or five days and enjoy!

Starting Plants Indoors with Lights Yields Better Results

Compact 3-Tier SunLite Garden_photo_credit_Gardeners_Supply_Company
Compact 3-Tier SunLite Garden_photo_credit_Gardeners_Supply_Company

It’s time to break out the seeds and potting mix to start garden plants indoors. “It’s a great way to keep your green thumb in shape over winter,” says Melinda Myers host of The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series. “Plus, you’ll save money, increase the variety of plants and jump start the growing season. And when you start seeds under LED grow lights you’ll have better results.”

Indoor growing conditions often offer limited light and that can mean tall leggy transplants with weak stems, explained Myers. Gardeners can greatly increase their success by investing in quality grow lights. Adding artificial light to any seed starting regime results in stout transplants with strong stems and deep green leaves. Myers offered these tips for getting started.

Invest wisely when shopping for indoor plant lights. Fluorescent tubes used to be the standard because they provided a wide spectrum of light needed for plant growth and flowering, were relatively inexpensive and readily available. Unfortunately, they used significant amounts of electricity and needed to be replaced every few years. Then many gardeners shifted to full spectrum fluorescent grow lights. Many last longer than the older and larger fluorescent tubes, but new LED grow lights provide even better light intensity with much less energy.

In the past, LED lights tended to be pricey and many suffered from sticker shock. Fortunately, the prices have dropped. Plus, if people consider the fact that LED plant lights typically use half the energy of fluorescent tubes, provide consistent light quality and last up to five times longer, the long-term savings outweighs the initial investment. They’re also mercury-free and won’t add contaminates to landfills.

When replacing fluorescent tubes with LED grow lights, look for compatibility. Some of the newer LED grow lights are compatible with existing T-5 light setups. Consumers simply need to replace the bulb, not the whole lighting system.

Get the most out of this investment and grow better transplants with proper use. Move seedlings under lights as soon as they start breaking through the soil surface. Keep the lights about six inches above the top of seedlings. This means raising the lights or lowering the plants as the seedlings grow. Or make a light stand using adjustable supports to raise and lower lights as needed. Use a reflector above grow light tubes to direct the light downward toward the plants. Bounce light back onto seedlings by using reflective surfaces under and around the plants. Even easier, invest in a quality grow light stand like the SunLite® Garden.

Set the lights on a timer. Seedlings need about 14 to 16 hours of light. Plants do need a dark period, so running the lights longer wastes electricity and is not good for the plants. If using grow lights to supplement natural daylight, gardeners may only need to run the lights a few hours a day. Monitor plant growth and increase the duration if the plants appear leggy or pale.

Increased light along with proper watering, fertilizer and growing temperatures will ensure a bumper crop of transplants for gardens and containers this season.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments.