Start planting spring-flowering bulbs about midmonth. Continue planting until mid-November, and even longer if soil isn't frozen. Follow these tips for success.
- Try something new: Plant a river of grape hyacinths through a bed. Create large daffodil groupings, especially along fences or edges of a yard. Tuck Siberian squill into a section of lawn for naturalizing.
- Add bulb fertilizer to planting holes, not bonemeal.
- Protect bulbs from burrowing creatures by encasing them in poultry wire cages.
- Outwit hungry squirrels by soaking bulbs in repellent or planting through established groundcovers.
- Buy discounted bulbs for an economical way to stage large drifts of color. Cull bulbs carefully, tossing any that have soft spots. Tulips missing their outer covering are okay to plant, as long as bulbs are firm.
- Plant bulbs in pots for forcing into flower indoors. Plan 14-16 weeks of cold (41-48 degrees F), plus two to three weeks at room temperature before flowering. Plant bulbs now for January color. Try forcing hyacinth, crocus, tulip, and daffodil.
- Tuck early-blooming bulbs, such as crocus, Siberian squill, and miniature iris, into planting beds where they'll be visible from indoors. Other great spots are near entries and driveways.
Clean up fallen leaves -- don't ignore them. Allowing leaves to accumulate on grass can kill it. Piled on sidewalks, decks, and driveways, fallen leaves create slippery footing and can stain.
- Time raking or mowing to deal with leaves before rains arrive and mat them together.
- Use a mulching blade to chop leaves finely and let them decompose into the lawn.
- Put fall leaves to work by adding them to your compost pile. Chopping them into pieces with a leaf vacuum or lawn mower speeds up decomposition and prevents matting.
- Cover water gardens with plastic mesh to keep leaves from tumbling in.
- Chopped autumn leaves make wonderful mulch piled around perennials or heaped onto empty vegetable beds.
- If you need to dispose of limbs, branches, and other woody stems, check with neighbors and see if they also have disposable material. You can all rent a chipper/shredder together for a weekend and reduce the woody material to mulch.
Move most tropical houseplants indoors for winter when temperatures stay below 50 degrees F. Plants such as fuchsia and holiday cactus can stay outdoors until nights remain in the 40s.
- When shifting houseplants indoors, tend to these tasks to make the transition easier -- on both you and your plants: Clean the soil surface, removing sprouted weeds and fallen leaves; trim them back by about half before moving indoors; and use a hand truck or dolly to make light work of moving larger plants.
- Dislodge insects from foliage with a gentle spray from the garden hose. Angle spray to reach beneath leaves.
- Submerge small plants in water for 15 minutes. Insects will flee hiding places and drown. Don't use this treatment for cacti, succulents, or plants that are already winter-dormant.
- With larger potted plants, dunk the base of the pot into a shallow tub of water to evict insects that have set up housekeeping in soil. Or simply spray a pesticide into drainage holes.
- After using treatments that soak soil, allow soil to dry outside for a few days before moving plants indoors.
- Have spaces prepared inside to receive plants. Group plants in a room where you can shut off the heat to create a cooler environment. This reduces watering needs and pest problems.
Continued on page 2: Next Page