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Your guide to Chesaeake Country's freshest produce and more!

Plant Spring Bulbs ASAP

Big flowers spring from well-developed roots

Don’t wait for the ground to cool before planting spring-flowering bulbs. The sooner you plant in the fall, the longer they will survive and the better they will bloom. Gardeners who wait to purchase their bulbs at end-of-the-year sales are likely to see smaller flowers and smaller plants next spring. If buying from open bins, you are also likely to be purchasing smaller bulbs because the larger ones have already been taken. The larger the bulb, the bigger the flower.

Time to plant garlic and short-day onions

Place orders now to get your bulbs in the ground between mid-October and the first frost.I like the mild flavor of elephant garlic, so that is the only kind I am planting. Select only short-day onions for fall planting. Short-day onions form bulbs only when daylight lasts less than 10 hours. If you plant long-day onions in the fall, you will harvest green onions.

    Planting while the soil is still warm allows the bulbs to generate a stronger and more fibrous root system. That’s the first thing a bulb must do after being planted, and it must get the job done before its cold-dormancy requirements begin.
    In large tulip, narcissus or hyacinth bulbs, the flower bud is already formed. However, that bud cannot develop until the bulb has undergone a series of cold-temperature changes. The gradual drop in temperatures satisfies the dormancy requirements of the bulb. Thus, the bulb should be well established in the soil and absorbing water through the new roots during this period of temperature change.
    The gradual change in dropping temperatures in the fall, followed by a gradual change in rising temperatures in the spring, helps the plant develop to its full potential and survival as a perennial.
    You can purchase pre-cooled bulbs for forcing, but those flowers are never as large as those planted and allowed to develop roots before being exposed to dropping temperatures.
    Pre-cooled bulbs have been exposed to different low temperatures for a given number of hours. The bulbs are placed in sealed containers, exposed to 10-degree drops and held at those temperatures for several days. After the bulb temperatures have reached 40 degrees, they are held for several weeks before being stored at 55 degrees for storage and shipping. This method of pre-cooling allows florists to purchase the bulbs for forcing in time for the holidays.
    The word to the wise gardener is buy the largest bulbs available, plant them early in well-prepared soil and enjoy big flowers next spring.