Gardening, done well, is at least 50% preparation. Once you realize what you should have done, it’s probably too late for this year. So, having a garden journal is invaluable to for successful planning for next year.
Here are a few things to look out for this spring, and steps to make next year even better:
- A Blank Slate – By fall when the bulb catalogues arrive, it’s easy to forget where you planted what. Take photos and use inconspicuous plant markers to remind yourself where you have clusters of daffodils or where you meant to add that globe allium. (Geek tip: If you use Evernote to capture random ideas on your smartphone or tablet, the Skitch app lets you easily annotate photos right on your device.)
- Color Me Beautiful – Love it or hate it, flowering shrubs give spring in New England a distinctive palette. Yellow forsythia, mauve ‘PJM’ rhododendrons, lilac magnolias, scarlet quince, and a range of cherry-blossom pinks. If you have mature flowering shrubs on your property, take note of the color and bloom time, and build bulb and perennial planting around a similar color family. For instance, forsythia could take tulips in loud, saturated reds and oranges, or contrast with more subdued purples and blues of scilla, hyacinth, and periwinkle.
- The Grass Is Always Greener – After doing a spring clean-up and seeing bare patches where last year’s crabgrass died out or there is too much shade, one’s inclination is always to want to rip up the whole yard and start from scratch. Don’t. Spread some compost and grass seed now, but wait to do major renovations until late August, when the grass seed will stand a chance against weeds. The one exception: if you have a shady area where grass is patch, and you are ready to develop it into a planting bed, its easiest to do it in spring while you are edging and mulching beds.
- Seedy Characters – Want to start a veggie garden, but don’t want to wait to buy expensive seedlings at the farmer’s market? Plan ahead next winter so that you can start your seeds in time. Here’s a nifty seed starting calculator from Margaret Roach at AWaytoGarden.com to tell you when and how to start what in your zone.
What did you remember to do this spring? What do you want to remember for next year? Let us know in the comments!
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This weekend promises to be beautiful weather for some final gardening chores. Guarantee yourself weeks of spring blooms by making “bulb lasagna.” Line the bottom of a 14″ or deeper container with gravel for drainage. Then layer potting soil and bulbs in 3 layers, starting with the largest bulbs on the bottom. Choose bulbs which will flower at different times to make your planting really work. Keep in mind that there will likely be some overlap in bloom times, so choose a color scheme that will be pleasing, such as monchromatic, contrasting, warm or cool colors.
Spring bulb bloom sequence (Boston area):
Iris reticulata ‘Gordon’ and yellow crocus
Late March-Early April
Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)
Eranthis (Winter Aconite)
Mid-to Late April
Narcissus ‘Sailboat’ and Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
Darwin Hybrid Tulips
Muscari (Grape Hyacinths)
Lily Flowered Tulips
Single Early Tulips
Fritillaria (large and small)
Early to Mid-May
Bunch Flowered Tulips
Flaming Parrot Tuli
Peony Flowered Tulips
Mid to Late-May
Single Late Tulips Dutch Iris
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Are this week’s chilly temps making you feel like you need to get those bulbs in stat? Here’s a quick how-to:
- In general, plant bulbs three times as deep as the width of the bulb. So, a 2″ wide tulip would go 6″ deep. Pointy part goes up.
- For more “wow” and less work, dig flat-bottomed holes large enough to accommodate a dozen bulbs. Lay bulbs in the bottom and backfill with soil. You can even layer multiple varieties in the same hole (“bulb lasagna”) — large daffodils or alliums (9″), then tulips and hyacinths (6″), topped with squill or crocus (2″-3″).
- If you don’t want to worry about cutting back the spent foliage in spring, plant early-flowering bulbs where they will be covered by the emerging leaves of summer or fall flowering perennials, or tuck them in amid groundcovers for a surprise burst of color. You can also naturalize drifts of scilla or scatterings of daffodils into a lawn area and mow when the foliage begins to yellow.
- To deter rodents from munching the bulbs, mix “chicken grit” (available at Agway, etc.) with the backfill, including the soil under the bulbs.
For those in the ‘burbs, here are some deer-deterrent bulbs – Latin(Common):
* squirrel resistant, too!
Allium (Ornamental Onion)*
Eranthus (Winter Aconite)
Muscarii (Grape Hyacinth)
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