Caring for spring bulbs

by Caroline Brown

I'm finally seeing signs of spring in my yard: the daffodils & crocus are beginning to poke their little heads out of the ground, testing to see if it's warm enough to pop all the way out. (Stop snickering, all you people in Zones 7-9.) Here are a few tips on caring for your bulbs as the mature:

Clean. If–like me–you didn't clean your beds in the fall, now's the time. Where bulbs are coming in, clear the area of dead leaves & other plant remains. If you can see bulb tips, be very careful if you rake–it might be best to do it by hand so you don't damage the plants.

Fertilize. Fertilize emerging bulbs once every couple of weeks, assuming the ground isn't frozen. For a dry fertilizer–Bulb Tone by Espoma is an example that's organic–dig the recommended amount into the soil and water. Diluted liquid organic fertilizers are also OK. Another organic fertilizer is wood ashes from your fireplace. Wood ashes are rich in potassium, which growing plants need. Sprinkle them in the soil around the base of the bulb (but not directly on its leaves/buds) and water it so that it soaks into the soil. Wood ashes are good for all bulbs except lilies. Continue to fertilize every couple of weeks until blooming is over.

Protect from pests. If you have deer, you'll have to protect bulbs that they like to eat, such as tulips & crocus. Luckily, deer don't like daffodils. Spray them with an organic deer repellant. I'm not making any product recommendations because we don't have deer and I haven't tried any, but they're out there.

Prune. If you're lucky enough to be in a zone where bulbs are already blooming, deadhead the spent blooms. For large bulbs like tulips & daffodils, allow the foliage to remain until it turns yellow, which is probably 6-8 weeks or so. The foliage continues to deliver nutrients to the bulbs and they store the nutrients over the fall and winter. Smaller bulbs like crocus are "self-cleaning." If you think the foliage looks bad as it's dying, you can try camouflaging it with with annuals or perennials.

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One Comment to “Caring for spring bulbs”

  1. What a great photo Caroline. No snickering here, we are definitely NOT in the warm zones. Even with my very limited plant knowledge, I seem to remember the Prairies rate a 2 or 3…..It is amazing though what people actually do manage to grow here, given the short summers and harsh weather. There are gardens and yards of beauty, even here, for those willing to put in the time. A greenhouse helps too.

    Happy first of spring 🙂
    Geraldine

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