Mitch Baker, retired Horticultural Specialist at the American Plant Garden Center and Nursery, in Bethesda, MD, focusing on natural gardening products and organic gardening. Mitch is a MD Certified Professional Horticulturist, with more than 36 years of experience in the garden center industry. He has studied at numerous horticultural institutions from New York to Oregon, and is a past board member of the Rachel Carson Council.
Winterizing Garden - Planting Fall Bulbs
Professional horticulturalist Mitch Baker demonstrates how to winterize an ornamental garden including how to plant fall bulbs.
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Mitch Baker: Hi! I am Mitch Baker with the American Plant in Bethesda. And we are talking about winterizing your ornamental garden and this is the spot we have chosen to plant some bulbs. But first we need to get this tropical elephant ear out of the ground and store it for the winter. So we will start by cutting it back, again so we can see what we are working with. Then we can gently dig this out of the soil and it will be stored in a dormant state over the winter, so we dont have to be real careful about this. This is really just a giant tuber that stores a great deal of moisture, so over the winter in a dormant state we will store it in pearlite or vermiculite or peat moss in a pot, down in the basement. Now that we have removed and stored the elephant ear for winter, so I was ready to be prepared for the bulbs. We are going to do the same soil preparation that we did for the fern using the same composted soil amendment. So we are going to work in a generous amount of the composted soil amendment to our soil because bulbs just like any other plant need to develop a good root system and they do that in a loose friable biologically active soil and create that by adding generous portion of the humic matter to the soil. Alright, now we have added the composted soil amendment to our soil and then we have moved that amended soil up around the parameter of the hole and we checking the depth for our bulbs and the depth is determined by the type of bulb. Typically, we are planting bulbs two to three times the depth of the bulb. Today we are just going to be putting in some small corms, some crocus and they are rather small and can be shallow but we still like to plant them a bit deeper than called for because it helps with root development, it also helps prevent squirrels from digging them up the next day after you have planted them. Alright, now these crocus are a corm, we talk about bulbs collectively. Bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, divisions, collectively, we just refer to them as bulbs, but they are different. So as a corm, there is a top and there is a bottom; we are going to make sure that, that bottom where the roots develop comes into contact with the soil. So the broader, flatter portion of the bulb often with some dry roots to it, thats coming into contact with the soil. So we are just going to space these bulbs up in this hole in a random fashion, not too symmetrical, more random. Just the way you would find them in nature. You dont find bulbs or flowers in perfect circles or straight lines in nature, so we are trying to mimic the results of nature. Alright, so now we have our crocus at the proper depth and the proper spacing, we know that, that bulb is coming into contact with the soil. We are going to partially backfill it gently now, so we are not disturbing those bulbs and after its partially backfilled, we are going to go ahead and apply some fertilizer, very important to fertilize these bulbs at the time of planting. And again, we are using a low fertility, organic fertilizer, getting it right into the soil profile at the time of planting. Now we can finish the backfill process. So why am I digging a hole to plant bulbs and not using the typical bulb planter like this? Now I am going to be putting quite a few crocus in a small space, so I am concentrating and rather than trying to dig small individual holes this way, I can amend the soil and proof the soil and then place the bulbs at the proper depth and the proper spacing, much easier that way. When you are using a bulb planter like this, first of all, you are really going to give yourself a workout just trying to get this into unbroken soil and if you can imagine that core of soil that you pull out, look at the large bulb like a narcissus, a daffodil. It really doesnt create a hole thats going to allow this bulb to be deep enough from the soil, first of all, to come into contact with the bottom and thats where the bottom of the bulb needs to be in contact with soil for root development. So if you have got a bulb that is suspended in a hole, you are not going to get good root development. So I am not certain if these types of bulb planters really do the job that they are designed to do, thats why, we are digging a hole today so that we can see the bulbs in the proper spacing, at the proper depth, we know we are going to get good results that way. Okay, well now that we have the bulbs in the ground, if you like, now that the soil is nice and loose, we can come back again and overplant, plant something right on the top of the bulbs. Pansies or violas, that will give us some color through the fall and winter and then be in place in spring as those bulbs begin to emerge. So we have already done our soil preparation, it is very easy now just to come in by hand, tuck in a few of these violas that will give us some color now for the remainder of fall and winter. They will be there in spring as the bulbs begin to emerge, so we get twice as much color. Again, what you are do in the garden in the fall can make a big difference in how you are garden performs in the spring. So, that about wraps up all of our chores for the fall, hope this has been helpful. Enjoy your garden.