Amaryllis Blooms and beyond

Amaryllis blooms are spectacular no matter the colour and with a minimum of care, will bloom over Christmas and throughout the winter months. Native to tropical and sub-tropical locations, this bulbous plant is not winter hearty here, but provides us a much needed indoor blast of colour in the coldness of winter.

 

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

 

 

Garden centres sell the widest variety of bulbs, which they generally sell loose for your planting pleasure. Potted bulbs beginning  their rapid leaf growth are also found in garden centres, and a wide variety of other locations including grocery and big box hardware stores. While many people are familiar with this plant, the background, cultivation and care information is something not be commonly known.

Amaryllis Genealogy

Amaryllis is the common name used for the herbaceous , perennial flowering plants of the Amaryllidaceae family. The actual genus Amaryllis bulbs come from South Africa , while the genus Hippeastrum bulbs from South and Central America are what are commonly sold here in the Northern Hemisphere around Christmas time.

Amaryllis  of the genus Hippeastrum have a wide variety of colours, both solid and in combination as there are approximately 90 species and 600 hybrid varieties. These herbaceous bulbs begin by sending out 2-7 narrow, flat long strap-shaped, green  leaves and from there if conditions are right, the flower stem begins to grow.

 Amaryllis Bloom Kits

Amaryllis bulbs are sold, as previously mentioned, loosely in most garden centres as well as in kits. The bulbs when found in grocery store , or big box store floral sections,  are generally in a kit either already growing or with all the necessary ingredients to start your own  plant.

Kits include a large tuberous bulb, a plastic or ceramic pot as well as growing medium. I purchased several kits, one of which had coconut fibre pellet that had specific volumes of warm water needed to get the right texture for planting in its drab green plastic pot. However, I have learned form many sources that this fibre can remove nutrients from the plant itself so I chose to use a soil-less, potting soil, coconut fibre mix instead. The other kit had a bag of slightly moistened soil-less mix, that I add some of the leftover fibre to, as an additional means to help with water retention in the lovely white ceramic pot.

Growing requirements

Amaryllis bulbs should be planted in the centre of a pot only  about 1 in larger in diameter than the bulb. One kit I purchased had a poor quality pot that was far too large, and so a more suitable size was used instead. Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb should be above the planting medium, which should be firmly packed before watering. Water well and find it a good spot to begin growing.

Amaryllis bulbs love warm sunny spots, and prefer to out of drafts. My collection sits in my front window which faces south west and primary gets sun from late morning until about 5 in the evening. After that time, I pull the tray back form the window, to allow the blinds to go down and to keep the plants away from the cold that radiates in through the glass.

my new white Amaryllis

my new white Amaryllis

Feeding

Water lightly at first, until the stems begin to grow when watering increases and fertilizing is needed for strong plants and beautiful Amaryllis blooms. At this point  the use of high Phosphorous fertilizer is important. Phosphorous is the middle number on household plant fertilizers and is the most important for healthy full blooms. The nitrogen and Potassium, which make up the first and last of the NPK components of fertilizer, help the plant grow strong roots and ensure  good overall health. You could use  a 5-10-5 or 11-35-15 fertilizer or whatever you have with the higher middle number.In addition, as Amaryllis are hearty feeders, watering in the fertilizer every second or third week while they are in bloom,  ensures longevity!

Salmon coloured amaryllis

Salmon coloured amaryllis

 

Once the flower begins to open, experts suggest the plant then be moved out of direct sunlight to ensure the  blooms last longer. By removing some of the light, the metabolism of the flower/seed formation would  decrease and allow for maximum enjoyment.

Summer Blooms

Summer blooms need lots of tender loving care to ensure they are always producing new buds. Certainly as we are in mid July, by now most gardeners have worn out their green thumbs by planting and relocating countless perennials and annuals.Not to be forgotten are the countless seasonal flower sales that often drive gardeners in to a last minute frenzy as the temptation to have just one more summer bloom takes over.

Lily

 

 

Garden Sale points:

1. is there a spot in my garden for it

2. is the plant in good enough shape to survive the transplanting

3. is the price really a “sale”

4.  do I need it.

Certainly summer blooms are tempting, but unless a lovely perennial seems just what you need to fill one last spot in the garden, walk on by. If the plant is sadly not at its best due to bad watering or crunched foliage, is it beyond saving? If the overall plant core seems healthy, and the briken or damaged leaves can easily be removed, then a sale plant certainly deserves to be a someone’s garden.

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If you just can’t stop staring at the plant, just buy it! Certainly an extra plant or two can be squeezed in somewhere and the cost most likely will not break the bank. Of course one last thing is the price vs the condition of that plant or shrub. A local garden centre near me recently had it’s 30% sale but as their prices run much higher than anywhere else, the sale wasn’t really great but they did have  a larger variety of plants. If the plant is really sad, but you need it, there is no harm in asking if they will take less, especially as the peak planting season is almost past.

Remember if you will be away on vacation or at the cottage, those plants will need a sitter to keep the summer’s heat from killing your lovely summer blooms. Even apartment dwellers with window boxes and veggies growing in all manner of containers, will need close care in the heat of the summer.

DSCN3013-001

Giant Coleus in Planter Box

 

Summer bloom care list

To ensure you have good blooms all summer remember to follow the basic list

1. good water

Most plants need to be kept from drying out too much so a good water twice a week should eb fine. Daily watering, whether it be the lawn or garden, keeps the plants roots closer to the soil surface and then a severe drought or a forgotten trip can cause the plant to dry up and die quite quicky due to no deep root formation.

2. fertilizing

Regular fertilixzing with organic ferilizers ( preferred) or the slow release type provide basic nutrients ensuring a hartier, healthier plant with showier bloom. Keep in main theat by the end of July and definitely in to August, most applications run the risk of  burning the plant out as its metabolism increases at a time when both the temperature and water condtions are not optimal.

3. deadheading

Deadheading of some plants such as petunias are well known, all plants benefite form thei, as then their energy can be put in to growing , not seed production. Once a bloom is past it’s prime, snip it off . Removing the dying bloom also makes the plant look tidier and obviously well cared for.

4. pest control

Especially in summer’s high heat days, all manner of garden pest seek, food, and shade. They also need the plants sap as a good source of water. On lily plants. removing the dark “poo” like substances on the leaves, removes the beginnings of the lily beetle that loves to consume the leaves . If the bugs are larger, wearing garden gloves, carefully remove them. If they return or you have small bugs such as aphids,  try straying on a mixture of warm water containing some dish soap, small amount of cooking oil and if that doesn’t keep  work, there are slightly more concentrated organic soap solutions that can be bought at more garden centres and greenhouses.

Milkweed and pests

Milkweed and pests

 

 

5. weeding

Weeding not only ensures a tidy garden it also removes the roots of those unwanted plants that would compete with those of the plants you choose to keep. Most weeds and wildflowers have a great tap root or wide root base that ensure they survive in nature to return each year.

 

Of course as you admire your garden you may already be planning changes for new year or just sitting like moss…a bump on a log.

P1000820-001

  For those you of you more adventurous…maybe seeing wildflowers for the water…kayaking across the country…may inspire you to as we live in a wondrous place…enjoy!

 

EARTH, WATER, SKY

EARTH, WATER, SKY

Tune in next month for further information and glorious photos of summer blooms in Nova Scotia

Seed planting in Spring and caring for sprouts

 Seed Planting in Spring

Seed planting in spring and caring for the sprouting seedlings are always popular pastimes and certainly April is one month that has Northern Hemisphere gardeners chomping at the bit.

 plant stuff and office 015plant stuff and office 042

 

 

 

 

Whether you had carefully scrutinized seed catalogues for your purchases or chosen them from the countless seed displays in local stores, you will have noticed the huge variety of seeds available!  Perhaps you collected seeds collected from last season’s garden, just as those in the Southern Hemisphere may be doing now as their gardens go dormant as colder weather approaches.

While many seedlings require different germination needs as previously written on this site, no matter  whether gardeners are working in large gardening centres or toiling over their grow lights and window sills, they are all hopeful those conditions have been met.

-_Seedling_-001

 Despite the complex process a seed goes through before the first sprout appears, from large global gardens such as Viceroy’s Palace Garden in India and Tsarskoe Selo Russia, through to massive garden shows like Canada Blooms to our small but priceless gardens, each carefully planted seed carries with it the hope and perspiration of many hands.

Now that seeds are under the lights, or on a sunny window ledge the tricky part begins. Keeping a few simple points in mind should ensure the sprouts you watch daily, will grow tall and healthy awaiting their new home in your garden or planters.

 

plant stuff and office 053

 

POST GERMINATION CARE

While the information on temperature, light and moisture levels seem pretty straightforward, to novice gardens especially, these both require careful monitoring. In addition, fertilizing is important in the right strength, to help ensure healthy hearty plants come from your seed planting in spring.

 

Temperature

If possible, providing a source of gentle warming from beneath is a valuable tool, enabling most seeds to germinate faster as it mimics the warm soil of your garden or planter. Certainly the top of refrigerators were once the site of many seed tray and seedlings, the newer model appliances give off very little heat. However, if they allow good sunlight, this would still be a good location for both new seeds and struggling seedlings.

The temperature requirements of most seeds are on the packages, but generally whether purchased or collected; seeds and seedlings both have minimum temperatures for good growth. Generally this is approximately 65 º F or 18 º C but above 68 º or 20 º is better. In addition, the optimal temperature is one if many pieces of information on the seed packages.

Heated seed tray starting kits are a big help as the try comes with a heating pad designed to warm the seeds from the bottom at an even temperature. Unfortunately on the one I purchased the actual temperature was not listed but the seeds sprout much faster than the comparable one in the small trays beside it.

 

plant stuff and office 028

 

If you live in an older home heated by radiators, covered in a non combustible material, trays could be placed there for warmth but monitor the area regularly so they are not baked instead.

There are several problems that can arise if the temperature needs of the sprouting seedlings are not met. The first problem with lower temperatures is the metabolism of the seed/seedling is slower. In addition, the cooler temperatures combined with generally high moisture levels are good breeding grounds for fungus which may result in the disease or condition know horticultural as damping off.

Lighting

Seeds generally require a good source of light and in fact, some require so much to germinate that the packages suggest little to no coverage of the seeds. In addition, some plants do not grow well if planted early indoors and transplanted. I have had little success transplanting sunflowers and in fact, the package instructions say just to plant in the garden after danger of frost is past. While the root systems may not support the transfer, more often than not the plant’s metabolism requires a high level of natural sunlight, hence straggly plants even when under grow lights.

If you do not have a sunny, no draft location for your seed trays, pots, pellets or whatever you planted in to, perhaps grow lights are for you.  There are many locations from larger big box stores and most most large garden centres  that sell tiered, fluorescent lit plant stands. Another good source to check out are garage sales, or on line used items sites as new tiered light stands are generally quite costly.

 

plant stuff and office 022

 

With the availability of new natural daylight frequency bulbs, often even a desk lamp or shop lighting arrangement can be used for seed planting in spring and  to give seedlings the light boost they need until they can be transitioned to outside areas. Of course there are many home made lighting set ups people have come up with, including adding foil around a light source to keep stray light at a minimum. In addition the increased warmth from the lights also helps with maintaining a good even temperature in the growing area.

To ensure good even lighting, start off with the grow lights approximately 6 inches or 15 cm from the seedlings and raise them as the sprouts grow. If the lights are too high above the greenery, the plants will grow taller and spindly as they try for more lights. In addition the lights should be on 16-18 hours a day to ensure the growth of sturdy  not tall thin plants.  Good, adequate lighting  promotes good leaf formation and strong stems,  and helps prevent  damping off.

Moisture levels

Water levels as any gardener know as crucial to plants, but with seedlings it is a bit tricky. Certainly the peat pellets, coir pots, mini greenhouse, coffee cups and pots that have been carefully planted are being watered regularly, but with the extra light and greenhouse like conditions watering may be a challenge. Of course it is highly recommended to either water via mat watering system or use a spray bottle to keep them seeds moist without disturbing them.

 

Mini Greenhouses on self-wicking water mat

Mini Greenhouses on self-wicking water mat

 

If corms or tuberous plants such as begonias or dahlias are started now to get a jump on the outside growing season, watering with a small container, gently on to the media is best to ensure thorough watering.

Begonia corms    sprouting

Begonia corms
sprouting

 

Possibly the easiest thing for garden novices especially is not drowning the seeds they plant in the spring. While the soil are growing media needs to be moist, try to ensure a consistent source of water by thinking of the seedlings as larger more mature plants. Most plant lovers know they do not need to water a plant every day, but when the soil surface is generally dry. Of course while there are always plants with more exacting water and lighting requirements, this is generally a good run of thumb that should be applied to the younger plant as well.

If there are tray covers on holding in the moisture, check the surface of the media used for possible mould formation. This is also possible when contaminated medium or dirty pots have been re-used. Provided the sprouts are up and growing fine, consider opening any vent on the lid or shifting it to allow more ventilation while maintaining a moist atmosphere over all. If you have rigged up plastic to create a greenhouse effect or are indeed using a greenhouse, remember circulation is vital, so create an opening and consider the use of a fan for good air movement.

Remember not all seeds even of the same plant will sprout at the same time so do not leave the lid on waiting for them all to catch up, so take the lid or dome off when a good percentage have sprouted and mist the rest. While moisture is required, at this point especially, good circulation is a must.

 

striving for better air flow

striving for better air flow

 

Fertilizing

One element often overlooked with seedlings is when and if they need fertilizer. Remember nutrients are important but the seed embryo itself contains all the food the new sprouts will need until they have developed true leaves, not the first ones formed. In fact, according to several expert sources, even mild fertilizer can kill the seedlings by over accelerating their metabolism and burning them.

If the growing medium you used contains no fertilizer, begin weekly feedings with a ¼ strength dilution of fertilizer, whether synthetic or organic. Keep in mind for most plants higher amounts of Phosphorus for good root and plant formation. In addition, if Coir pots or media are used, that coconut fibre product can compete with the new plants of Nitrogen so a more balanced N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) ratio is best. After a week or two ½ strength can be used.

Full recommended dosing is not advisable until the plant is larger and ready to be acclimatized in to a cold frame, or shady area on the way to its permanent home. Another option at that point is mixing a granular organic or synthetic slow release fertilizer in to the soil when the seedlings are moved.

Additional Suggestions

There are countless sites, books, garden experts and even gardening forums that offer a variety of information and support and a few are listed below:

www.GardenWeb.com

www.Helpfulgardener.com

 

Final notes:

While to some, planting seeds in the spring is not something they are interested in, others find it very rewarding. To those of you who cannot spare the time but love to garden, remember most garden centres carry basic perennials, annuals, vegetables etc. at a reasonable cost so you too can have a garden of your own without breaking the bank… so whether it be seeds, sprouts, veggies, ferns, flora or fauna…let your garden inspire you…and happy Spring wherever you are!

lily Logo

 

 

 

Poinsettia Plant

 

 At Christmas time here in North America, the Poinsettia plant is a common sight almost everywhere you look. Hardware, department and even corner stores, all carry a wide variety of this brightly coloured plant. Then there are plastic replicas, cards, wrapping paper, brooches, earrings and assorted jewellery . Never have I seen one plant so recognized by gardeners and non gardeners alike.

 

assorted colours

assorted colours

Then, as a gardener, I am embarrassed to say how little I know of this plant except how to care for it. Certainly I know it likes to be evenly moist and likes lots of light, to keep the plant firm and healthy. Then there is the darkening process required to get the lovely colourful flower, which I once successfully did, even if I started so late the pale red petals come out in February, making it a Valentine’s Poinsettia.

 

Right now, there are two different colour specimens of  the  Poinsettia plant, in my living room, and even an all green one that is celebrating its one year anniversary at my workplace. Recently when watering that plant, someone asked me where it came from and of course I replied form the cafeteria, where they tired of it in January.  Then I began to wonder where this plant originated and I realized I had another plant for my inspiration.

 

History of Poinsettia Plants

Poinsettia plants, proper name Euphorbia Pulcherrima, which translates to “most beautiful Euphorbia” and is part of the Spurge Family of plants. Largely composed of herbs, this family contains a wide variety of plants including some shrubs, trees and succulents, in tropical areas.  I was unable to determine who discovered this plant and when that happened but it is known the Aztecs used it in the 14th-16th Century.

 

The plant was throughout their habitat region in Central America and tropical regions of Mexico. Record show the plant was part of their daily lives in addition to being beautiful. The sap from the leaves and stems was used to reduce fever and the red coloured leaves found around the flowers, were used as a dye.

 

Traditional Red Poinsettia

Traditional Red Poinsettia

As the 16th century began to draw to a close, legend and fact become mixed. Certainly it is know that the Poinsettia plant, know there as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve, was used in Mexico as part of Christmas tradition . From the 16th century the plant was used in Mexico as part of the Christian Christmas Celebrations and that continued in to the 17th century, with the Spanish Conquest of the area. Then the Franciscan Friars also continued to use it, in celebrations and Spanish botanists began to study it.

 

Further research reveals that between 1825- 1828,  the colourful poinsettia  plant was introduced in to the United States from its native growing areas along the Pacifica Coast of Mexico and Central America, by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the United States Minister to Mexico at the time. He sent these plants to President Andrew Jackson for a Christmas display at the White House, where they were named there in his honour. Since then, the plant’s role in Christmas tradition spread throughout the United States and Canada.  In Mexico and Guatemala the plant is still referred to as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve.

 

History records that this brightly coloured plant was shipped to Egypt around 1860 and that it is still cultivated there to this day. In this area of the world the plant is called “Bent El Consul”, “the consul’s daughter”, referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett.  Perhaps the strangest part of the history of this plant is the legend that follows it.

 

Poinsettia Legend

Legends told over the years do vary, as word of mouth is not the most reliable of ways to record history, but there are some constants that come through each telling of this plant’s legend. During the 16th century the tale records that two small, children, from a very poor family watched all manner of Christmas celebrations in the village. One of these ceremonies was the setting up of a manger scene in front of the church.

 

After the manger was set up people came with gifts to place before the crèche. With nothing to give, these two children decided to pick plants for along the roadside to decorate the crib for Baby Jesus.  The children placed these weeds at the manger and before long everyone teased them about their gift, but on Christmas morning the weeds had bloomed in to beautiful red star shaped flowers of the Poinsettia Plant.

 

The moral of this story was that giving from the heart is the most important and true way to give. Of course one of the Aztec name for this plant was flor que se marchita translated to the flower that wilts) and gardens know that the  noche buena  or Poinsettia wilts within a few minutes after it is cut, making it unsuitable for bouquets…so if the legend was true, it really was a miracle!

 Anatomy of Poinsettia

This family of flowering plants is composed of approximately 300 genera and 7,500 species of flowering plants.  One  thing this family shares is an unusual flower cluster composed called  cyathium , which is a cuplike group of modified leaves enclosing a female flower and several male flowers.

In fact, what we think of as the Poinsettia flower is really the modified leaves called bracts. These bracts serve several purposes. First, they protect the poinsettia’s true flowers, which are the tiny (4-5 mm) greenish-yellow buds in the centre of the bracts.   Also the bright red colour attracts pollinating insects to the little flowers.

 

flowers

tiny yellow flowers

 

 

In addition to the attraction we have to the bright red colours of this plant, most people are also aware of the misconception that the sap of this plant is poison. While the plant does have a thick milky sap, or latex, that is known to be a skin irritant, studies have shown that their toxicity is greatly exaggerated!

 

Eating or ingesting any part of  a Poinsettia Plant will cause digestive problems of cramps, nausea with diarrhea, especially in serious cases. One article I read said in dogs the sap irritates mouth and stomach. Even poison control centre in the United States determined a small child would have to eat over 500 leaves before it would become toxic.

 

A general precaution, with Poinsettia’s and all plants, is to keep them out of easy reach by pets and children alike.

 

Poinsettia care

Poinsettias require little care to thrive through the Holiday season. Water them when the soil feels dry to the touch, but do not over water or the leaves, both green and red, will turn yellow and fall off.

The plant likes lots of direct sunlight, as they did come from  a tropical area, it makes sense.  If the Poinsettia is part of a scene or display that is not close to a window, then moving it occasionally to a bright window for even a few hours, will help the bracs keep their bright red colour.

Regular house temperatures  are tine for this plant but be aware it is sensitive to cold drafts and being too close to cold windows.

 

After season Care

Many people discard this plant after the Christmas season, however many gardeners keep this plant and hope they can force it to recolour in the fall.

Basically keep watering the plant through the spring and then place in a sunny window. If the plant begins to get scraggy, leave a branch intact for food production and trim the other back.

Once the last frost is past, the poinsettia can be planted in the garden. New growth in both cases will be deep green and the size of the plant may get out of control so cutting back will be required. Regular fertilizing with a good general purpose brand is also a good idea.

One the summer is past and the weather begins to cool, the challenge of forcing the Poinsettia plant bloom and bracs, becomes the challenge. Starting Oct 1, the plant needs total darkness from 5 p.m to 8 a.m ( 12-14 hours in total) and still good light during the day.  This is required for about 10 weeks until the end of November when you should notice buds forming.

Suggestions:

 A black plastic bag works well. Put the plant in the bottom and merely pull the bag up and twist tie it closed over the plant. In the morning drop the bag down around the bottom of the plant.

If you have a deep, dark cupboard that the plant can be moved in to that will also work  but remember any stray light during this resting period can impact forcing the bloom.

lovley plants

Planting Bulbs

Planting Bulbs

While there are many things I have posted on that can inspire others to garden, paint, research their favourite flower, just to name a few, one activity that much of the Northern Hemisphere has in common in the fall is planting spring flowering bulbs. My last post gave brief information on bulbs and their origin, leading to this more factual information on the steps to actually planting bulbs and corms.

 

corm

corm

bulbs

bulbs

 

Tulips are merely one of many bulbs, along with Hyacinths, Daffodils and Narcissus that are the most widely known bulbs. The structure of a bulb’s interior is composed of fleshy, modified leaf like layers, which would be easily visible if it was cut in half. Corms such as crocus and gladiolas may look similar to bulbs, but they are basically thick stem like tissue.

Whether you choose true bulbs or corms, be certain they are winter hardy.  Remember then, to provide the proper temperature for  vernalization to take place. Vernalization is derived from the Latin word vernus, or spring, and is the required exposure to cold winter weather which allows the plant to grow and flower. If you live in a warmer zone than an 8, where the temperature outside will not provide the required temp of 5-10 degrees Celsius (40-50 Fahrenheit), then forcing bulbs in your fridge is a good option. Instructions for this will follow those for gardeners who will be planting outside in the flower beds.

Bulbs can be planted almost until the ground freezes, but early to mid October planting allows time for the bulbs to settle before the cold winter starts. There are many things to consider when planning what and where to plant, but with a few basics, anyone can have lovely spring blooms!

 

planting info

 

SUNLIGHT

Despite the deciduous trees having no leaves in the spring, shade from buildings and evergreen trees is still a factor to consider. With a shadier area in the front garden both at home and at the cottage, I was concerned about how this would impact the blooms there. After a bit of digging, into books, I found that bulbs labelled “early flowering” were the best for this situation. Really this classification of bulbs is not based on a specific family, genus or species, but the fact that they bloom and flower with less UV rays than other plants…hence the early designation. I other words, these bulbs, that require less UV are better suited to shadier areas.

SOIL

Bulbs sleep all winter, blanketed in soil, until the temperature there has chilled them for approximately eight weeks below 10 degrees Celsius or 50  degrees Fahrenheit, long enough for their growth cycle to begin. This is an important factor to consider as with planting any annuals or perennials.

If your soil is sandy , like at the my cottage, any natural compost, peat moss, cocoa fibre  or organic aged manure  that can be worked into the soil  will help provide a more even moisture content  throughout the winter in to spring. If the soil is too dense, these additions can also break up the clumps that often prevent adequate drainage.

Basically you need to add anything natural that will help lock in moisture and provide nutrients. Adding clay soil to offset the sandy is good, or vice versa, but remember to ensure nutrient levels are high.

Organic matter, in addition to being a good additive for improved soil fertility, also provides food for earthworms and beneficial bacteria in the soil. These creatures break down the soli and its nutrients so they can be absorbed well by the forming bulb roots and all plants as they grow.

 NUTRIENTS

Certainly the better flowing nutrient laden soil is better for both spring and summer flowering bulbs. In addition to augmenting the soil itself, the addition of blood or bone meal, provides a boost to the bulbs themselves.  Approximately ¼ to ½ a teaspoon can be added to the hole around each planted bulb.

Blood meal as a dry powder made from animal blood that provides much needed nitrogen to the soil. In addition, spread on or slightly below the ground level, the scent is a deterrent to small animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Bone meal is crushed bone that provides higher amounts of phosphorus which is good for root growth, but it may in fact attract animals looking for bones.

A good soluable general fertilizer 10-10-10 can also be added to the soil and then watered or dug in again when the bulbs begin to shoot out of the earth.  This can be mixed with the blood or bone meal and should be in the soil down to below the level of the bulbs being planted.

LOCATION

Again, the sunny spots will probably produce the best blooms with early flowering bulbs the best selection for shadier areas. Evergreen trees will shade all year round but do help even out the soil temperatures close by, evening out extreme fluctuations that can damage bulbs. In addition, spring bulbs planted on a slope will tend to bloom earlier than bulbs in a dip or gulley as warm air rises and cold air tends to settle in lower areas.

PREPARATION

Beyond the soil preparation, there are a few basics that can be prepared in advance. Collecting clean spades and trowels as well as blood/bone meal or other fertilizer helps cut down on the actual planting time. Also knowing the location to plant, whether it is in an existing garden or part of a new garden design, and proper spacing of all bulbs to be planted, is vital for enhanced garden design and good spring growth.

METHOD OF PLANTING

There are basically two methods of planting, both of which require the gardener to know the depth of planting. As a general rule of thumb the bulbs or corms are planted with the fine tip up and to a depth of approximately 3x the height of the bulb itself.  Checking the package or growing directions at the nursery will also help. Good gardening practise is also never to plant in even numbers as it seems odd number produce a more natural look.

 

1. Using a spade or small shovel, one large hole is dug at the required depth for the assortment of bulbs requiring that depth. Using a tape measure or judging by eye are the basic way of measuring the depth. Then a small bone /blood meal or natural fertilizer is spread lightly in the whole before placing bulbs.

 

grouping in one large hole

 

If space allows for any smaller bulbs/corms to be planted, once the bigger bulbs are partially buried, spread more nutrients and add those buds.

 

smaller bulbs above

 

2. This method is similar but uses a small trowel or a bulb planter. There are short handled manual bulb planters that require you to be on your hands and knees and many long handled versions where you stand and use your feet to force the tool in to the ground.

 

bulb planter

 

 

 

 

 

There are many of both types available at local garden centres, many of which have the depth scale right on the tool. Again, nutrient supplement is added to the whole once the soil is removed, before the bulbs are added.

larger bulbs in place

best individual holes

small bulbs indiv

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL STAGES OF PLANTING

After bulbs have received their nutritional supplement, been spaced properly in depth and between each other, soil is filled in around them. Then mulch on top will provide an extra measure of winter protection and keep the temperature and moisture levels more constant. Finally a thorough watering will ensure the ground there has adequate moisture for the  bulbs to get started once there is a spring thaw.

REFRIGERATOR BULB GARDENING

If you can purchase at garden centres or by the Internet, spring bulbs that require vernalization, never fear as your fridge is near! There are many articles on what is called forcing bulbs and sometime the misconception that they have to actually be frozen.

Basically the easy version is as follows:

-good soil

-pot 13-18 cm deep  ( 6-9 inches)

– few inches of soil in bottom so bulb is ad required depth

-add bulb and cover well (with nutrients to be watered in later)

-water thoroughly

-put in a plastic bag with one end open for ventilation

-place in the back of the fridge

-check on it every week to ensure it does not get too dry

-after approximately 6-8 weeks  there should be small shoots

-bring out of fridge in to partially lit room for a few days

-water with fertilizer and then bring to a brightly lit room or window ledge

-enjoy!

Final thoughts

Remember, while many things seem to go wrong, bulbs are very forgiviing. In fact, once I planted my bulbs upside down and although it took some extra time, they did bloom. Only when I thinned them out a few years later, did I realize the pointed tip was facing down!  🙂  Happy planting!

Holland  Commercial Tulip Farming

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

 

Growing a healthy lawn

All this week I have been staring out the window at the sad excuse of a side lawn and then looking across the street at all the healthy green lush ones. Of course part of the problem is a huge bald spot on the slope, that is very visible from the street. Adding to that dead area are a multitude of potholes left by some kind of digging animals who feasted on bug snack food before moving on to greener pastures. Now all I needed to fix the mess would be the Jolly Green Giants green thumb !

 

Of course the other piece of the problem came from me, the head gardener, who bit off more than I could chew. Then again last summer’s laziness didn’t help as the exposed area got drier and sadder each passing week. Now, I asked myself if the ninety-two year old neighbour has a lovely lawn what’s wrong with me? Certainly the fact that my organic lawn has every weed imaginable thriving does interfere in the growth of normal grass. But then the environment is healthier because of me and my lawn and it makes the surrounding green spaces along the block, look even better.

Mystery Weed!

 

This is all the more apparent each day as I drive down the street towards my house and now the shame has finally gotten the better of me. Okay my eyes could only look the other way for so long, before even these lazybones knew I had to do something! The craters on the side slope could be tackled…I just needed a some help and a plan.

 

The plan was to get seed and turf..no not surf and turf…and fertilize. To get a good start on this plan, while I was out doing errands , I got the sod. I don’t know if you have been to the lawn seed and fertilizer aisles of a big box store recently, but the choices are overwhelming! I knew I needed seed for shady areas, and that I had a mess in the side yard, but nice grass on the front where it is sunny most of the day.

 

Thankfully there was a fertilizing person at the store filling in his company’s products. Now of course he could have pushed just his products, but he really just explained it would be difficult seeding and sodding a shady area. His suggestion was to use a starter fertilizer as well, which would not only help the sod to take well, but would also perk up the roots of the other struggling grass.

 

Following his advice, back I went to the garden centre. Of course not really being gardeners, but barely out of school young adults, not one had a clue as to the length of a flattened roll of sod. Although the price of $3.20 a roll was good, despite my nagging inner gardening guru’s voice, I bought only two rolls. What was I thinking? Obviously in my mind, the dead zone was not too big, but sadly that was not the case!

 

Rolling out the sod later at home, revealed I needed many more rolls to fill in the crater. Then of course, after my underestimation, I checked on-line and the general consensus is a roll is about 24 inches wide and 5 feet long. I love metric, but if you need a conversion you are on your own, as my long measuring tape is traditional units…so feet it is!

Sod Inspector

 

Whether you actually have a metric or standard yard tape measure, I suggest you get it out, with a pencil and paper. First measure the width and then the length so you can practise your math skills and calculate the total area you want to grow healthy again. If a 2×5 foot roll covers 10 square feet, using some long division should help you come up with a total roll count.

 

So out I go and despite my own suggestions, I use an old semi-reliable set of measuring devices that are never hard to locate… my very own two feet. From actually measuring them on on a small wooden ruler, they are approximately 10 inches or 25 cm in length. Now a few calculations and tada…I need 5 more rolls of lovely grass, so off we go on another trip to a garden centre .

 

Certainly garden centres are lovely, energetic, inspiring places to hang out. The biggest pitfall however, is trying to keep my wallet closed to all but the green rolls of nature’s carpet that I came to buy. Keeping my eyes focused to the aisles and away from those pesky tempting perennials, garden ornaments and my favourite, the garden gnomes, would definitely be a challenge. On my last stop though, only one lovely Hellioborus made it in to the cart and past the checkout. Once planted in its shady home, I was pleased at how lovely it looked between the ferns and the hostas in the side garden. Even the gnomes, who live there all year round, seemed happy with it.

 

But no one is happy with the lunar landscape of the neighbouring slope, and certainly the work is more exhausting , as things are seldom as easy as they sound. First I needed to cut out all the tiny pieces of sod that will cause a problem with the rolls lying flat. Then as the soil underneath seems to have no nutrients or water retention abilities, I will need to put down a layer of black topsoil and some peat moss before going any further. Doesn’t this sound like good solid gardening advice?

 

In fact, taking these suggestions as fact, I checked the multiple bags piles in the backyard and discovered there was good soil and peat moss ready to spruce up any yard or garden. Then off to the garden centre where only five rolls of the sod went in to the trunk without any accompanying plants that would need a home…so my focus was on my soon to be healthy lawn.

 

The next step to good health was to pull any interfering weeds and grass clumps out of the staging zone. Then any big clumps were raked out and some starter fertilizer was spread out over the levelled surface. I was pleased at remembering the flattened soil had to be lower so the top of the rolled out sod would be even with the surrounding lawn. Then after all seven, soggy, lead weight rolls were down in a rather staggered pattern, I back filled the edges and gaps all around.

Lawn Care at work

 

Of course there were lots of gaps and pot holes to fill with good soil all over the place. Wow was it exhausting! But despite my aching muscles, there was still the watering step! After all, how could those little strands of grass and tiny seeds become my fabulous lawn without water! But that led to the official turning on of the hose..a rite of summer! Despite a tiny leak, flooding was minimal and now the watering of the sod takes place each and every day, as I wait for ten more sleeps to see how my hard work turns out!

 

 

 

May Showers

May 1, 2012

 

 

Hello. As I write this entry I am listening to the rain that is taking April and turning it into May, and eavesdropping on the thirsty plants drinking in all that water! Certainly this rain is well needed to help them send out a solid root base for their new growth. Just think of how tall they’ll get!

Of course my lawn is moving on up that way as well. Certainly at this time of year the weeds are highest, followed by many heights of grass. In the front there are patches almost six inches tall. Of course that’s because our lawn mower of last season has died and hand trimming is definitely not an option.

Instead, the choice made this morning was to go mower shopping after work…who knew rain was definitely coming (except of course for the weather people). Despite the rain, the old carbon spewing mower was driven to its grave…a major big box store giving a large discount on “Eco Friendly “mowers. Now a lovely battery operated one sits in its box waiting to be assembled. Welcome to the future where we put up with the uncertainty of results in favour of the planet.

While the planet can’t thank us personally, certainly every little bit helps. Please consider that when you make a new garden tool purchase or pick up herbicides and pesticides. Of course my completely organic lawn means neighbours are less than happy with every weed imaginable living and roaming free. Now if someone could just come up with a way of corralling them or chocking the life out of them in an environmentally friendly way, we could all benefit…of course I meant the weeds should die, not the neighbours!

In the meantime I will try the natural way to rid my lawn of the unruly weeds. So far this spring I have dug up over 100 dandelions, yanked up a yard waste bag or two of creeping wide leaved green things and planned another post rain assault. In the past I have sprayed heated vinegar along sidewalk cracks and on stubborn clumps of weeds, with limited success. Still, as Astro turf is not a natural or affordable option, some good lawn care is really the best plan.

 

Pretty lawn weed

 

Yes, despite the state of my lawn, I do know what should be done, especially now that the warmer weather is coming up. As the lawn has been thoroughly raked and has been aerated, a two part plan is coming up. First I will put down some good soil, especially on the slope where grass is almost gone. Then I will get a good brand of grass seed that can do well in shade or a good mixture that I can spread on the whole lawn. Between better soil, being kept moist and careful attention, by me, the family gardener, the green tufts should be everywhere.

Or there may be a plan B in the works, which is costlier but less work in the long run. After good soil is placed on the slope and in the biggest hollows, then rolling out some sod and firmly packing it down is the next step. Of course keeping it moist is important too and a mild fertilizer would help also. Knowing me, this strategy would probably give more consistent results. After all, since in the past I have not consistently watered the seeds, once germination has really just begun, then the poor strands of grass begin to shrivel up! What a sad tale…the waste of time, effort and water.

With just these basic guidelines, some good fertilizer and lots of manual labour, I hope, to have a lawn to be proud of before long. Of course if nothing else, I have lovely bulbs still in bloom which redeems me somewhat. If I know anything, it is that nobody holds all the answers, except maybe the internet…the best garden guide one can find at your fingertips. Now it’s time to rest my typing digits…and check my eyelids for leaks…Chow Baby.