Master Gardener Sue Morris: Now is time to survey your gardens and make notes for next year
Make notes about your garden this year to remember what worked for you and what needs to be done in the spring.
This is an excellent time of year to go through your flower garden with your camera and notebook. Make notes on which plants need to be divided and/or moved.
If you had trees removed or if trees are making more shade for your flowers, it may be time to find a new place for these perennials. If you tried some new annuals this year, make a note of the varieties so you can remember what to buy (or not buy) next spring.
Sometimes it is difficult to remember the following spring what worked well in your yard unless you take notes or photos.
Make a spring “to do” list and write down all the chores that need to be attended to and didn’t get done this fall. It’s easy to forget what needs to be done when everything is emerging in the spring.
If you have time and want to divide some of your perennials this fall, cut the foliage back by at least half as you will have a smaller root system and less energy to go to the foliage.
The day before you do your dividing and/or transplanting, water the plants well and also water the area where you are going to transplant them. If you can, dig the new hole ahead of time and fill it with water.
When transplanting/dividing, get your plant in the new hole quickly so the roots don’t dry out.
After the plant is in place, fill the hole halfway with soil and water well. By doing this, you are ensured that the water isn’t rolling off the soil’s surface. Fill the hole completely, water it once more and put down a layer of mulch. You aren’t done yet. You need to check your transplants daily to check for wilting or if they need more water.
This is the time of year to think about spring color. When we think about spring, our thoughts generally go to tulips, daffodils and crocus.
There are many other underused bulbs to provide spring colors. Some early spring flowering bulbs include: Striped Squill, Snowdrops, Siberian Squill, Checkered Lily, species tulips, garden hyacinth, grape hyacinth and the “first sign of spring” crocus (blooming even before dandelions.).
By planting early, mid-season and late tulips, you can extend the tulip blooming period up to a month.
Ornamental onions come in a variety of sizes, from very short up to 5 feet tall. The giant allium (ornamental onion) is relatively short-lived in number of years, but the smaller ones live for many years.
When purchasing bulbs, check for signs of disease or damage — this includes cuts or bruises. Bulb should be firm and still contain protective papery skin. Any bulbs that are soft or moldy should be discarded.
Most bulbs should be planted mid-September through first part of October.
The bulb needs to have a chance to grow roots before the ground freezes. Tulips are an exception as they can be planted up until the ground is frozen and you can’t get them into the soil.
Select a site that will have warmth and light of the sun to trigger growth in the spring and promote foliar growth after bloom.
Areas near building foundations with west or south exposure will likely warm up quicker and the flowers will bloom earlier. Find a protected area out of strong winds and avoid areas that might pool water.
Loosen up the soil and blend in some organic matter such as peat moss or shredded leaf mulch to the top 10 to 12 inches to improve the soil. Work in a handful of 5-10-10 fertilizer for 10 to 12 bulbs. Blend in the fertilizer rather than tossing it in the hole — as that can lead to the fertilizer burning the bulb or new roots.
Planting depth and spacing varies depending on the bulb variety. A good rule of thumb is to plant two and a half times deeper than the bulb is wide.
Soil type may alter this recommendation. On light sandy soil, plant the bulb 1 to 2 inches deeper than recommended while in heavy, clay soil the bulb should be planted 1 to 2 inches shallower. Always plant the pointed end up; press the bulb into the loosened prepared soil at the correct depth. Cover with half the soil, soak with water and then add the remaining soil. Finally water in and add 3 to 5 inches of leaf material, grass clippings or straw as mulch.
If you think you will have a squirrel problem, you can lay mesh screening over the top of the ground but make sure you remove it early in the spring.