There are so many places to plant bulbs that you can never have too many. They do not have to be limited to their own space. I like to plant bulbs anywhere I plant annual flowers. In the spring I plant my annuals between bulbs, even before the bulb leaves start to turn brown. You can also plant bulbs now between currently growing annuals, or it may be easier to wait until frost kills the plants, remove the annuals, and then plant bulbs.
I also plant bulbs among perennial flowers. They are through flowering before most perennials have grown to full size. There are a few early blooming perennials such as rock cress, gold alyssum, and candytuft which bloom as early as bulbs. Even these early bloomers are compatible with bulbs if you choose the right sizes and colors.
I am very fond of ground covers because they are low maintenance once established. Bulbs add color when they come up through ground covers. For example, yellow tulips or daffodils are a very attractive contrast to bronze leaf ajuga. You can make holes for bulb planting between ground cover plants with a trowel or bulb planter. Or if your ground cover is very thick, a 3 inch hole for a bulb will be quickly filled in.
New beds for bulbs can also be created in front of shrubs, walls or fences. If spaces are not wide enough, expand them by spraying a section of grass with herbicides such as Roundup. You can remove the dead grass within 3 weeks, even if it has not turned completely brown yet. If grass has grown into areas where bulbs are already planted, now is a good time to spray so that it will be weed-free next spring.
Bulbs multiply over the years. If yours have become too thick, you may want to dig them up and respace them. If you have trouble locating them, make a note on your calendar to dig and replant next June when you still have leaf remnants to find their exact location.
The best pattern for most bulb plantings is clusters or clumps rather than single file rows. I prefer to plant individual colors and varieties rather than mixtures. If you plant more than one kind of bulb in a bed, check the heights, so you can plant the shorter ones in front.
Although my mainstays are tulips and daffodils, I plant a few of the less common bulbs to extend the blooming season. Crocus is the most reliable early bloomer, but snowdrops, and windflower (Anemone blanda) also do well. Hyacinths and grape hyacinths are also easy to grow. Frittilarias can be spectacular. Fall is also an excellent time to move or plant new summer-blooming Asiatic Lilies.
I do a lot of bulb planting for my clients.]]>
My lawn is looking worse than normal for this time of year. I don’t usually fertilize until October. Would it help to fertilize sooner this year?
I normally fertilize my lawn just twice a year. I consider the fall application more important than the spring application. Anytime from now until the end of November is effective. You will see a quicker response if you apply it sooner.
Fall lawn fertilization keeps the grass green all winter and into early spring. It allows you to wait until May to apply a spring fertilization. Then the spring application lasts through the summer.
Washington law now excludes phosphorus from lawn fertilizers in order to reduce the amount of phosphorus leaching into above ground and below ground water supplies. I now recommend a 3-0-2 balance of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium. A typical formulation would be 15-0-10 or 18-0-12. An organic lawn fertilizer would be more like 9-0-6. The numbers do not have to be exact, but approximately in this ratio.
I like to have at least 1/3 of the nitrogen in a slow release form since nitrogen is very soluble and some leaches quickly below the grass roots. The most effective slow release mechanism is coating or encapsulating some of the nitrogen with sulfur or a poly coating. There are also chemical nitrogen compounds such as methylineurea which are slow release. Check the “guaranteed analysis” to see if some of the nitrogen is slow release. The analysis label will also list iron, which is also helpful, even in small amounts.
Special lawn fertilizer formulations for fall application (usually called “winterizer” blends) are also suitable. However, I usually apply the same fertilizer in both fall and spring.
If you use a liquid application yourself or have one applied by a lawn care company, make an application now and another one in late October. Liquid fertilizers do not last as long as granular fertilizer. They are satisfactory as long as they are applied more often.
If you have broad leaf weeds in you lawn, a weed and feed product is a convenient way to apply both fertilizer and weed killer at the same time.
I can apply lawn fertilizer or weed and feed for you for a reasonable cost.]]>
Lots of flowers can be planted now, including the following:
Spring Flowering Bulbs
Now through November is the proper time to plant spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and ranunculus. It is also a good time to plant summer flowering lily bulbs. You can also move these bulbs from one location to another. Wait another month to move lilies so the new bulbs have time to grow to full size.
I have a neighbor who has a very attractive “naturalized” bulb bed. She has planted both early and late flowering bulbs throughout the area. Crocus, snowdrops and scilla are the first wave of bloom. They are followed by several kinds of daffodils. Then tulips and grape hyacinths bloom in mid-spring. A few perennial flowers are scattered in this area to continue the color into summer.
I have found that daffodils (including the miniatures) are the easiest and most reliable spring flowering bulbs. Hyacinths have wonderful fragrance. Tulips have the largest variety of types and colors of flowers. I like Blanda anemones and ranunculus for late spring bloom.
Plant Pansies Now
If you would like color through fall, most of the winter, and early next spring, nothing does the job like pansies and flowering kale. The sooner you plant, the better plants will establish themselves before winter. Try planting a bed near your entry or where you can look at them from the back deck. Tubs and planter boxes are good locations for pansies too. You can even plant them between summer flowering annuals, so they will be established when the summer annuals are through blooming.
Plant Fall and Winter Blooming Perennial Flowers
Fall aster and chrysanthemum plants are available now in bud and bloom. Hellebores, such as ‘Christmas Rose’ bloom during the winter and on into early spring. Of course any perennial flowers can be planted now. They will get a good start and be well established plants by next spring.]]>
The main problem with most mature landscapes is overgrown shrubs which no longer enhance your home. They may have been sheared so they are all round balls or boxy hedges. They may have lost their leaves at the bottom because of overgrown top growth. In many cases, shrubs have grown together so they no longer have their individual shape or character.
Take a critical look at your landscape and make plans for some remodeling. Even if your landscape is relatively young, you may be able to see shrubs that will soon be overcrowded. You may be able to remove some of the extra ones before they have completely grown together. This will allow the remaining ones to retain their natural shape. Will some light pruning on remaining shrubs help before they become overgrown?
My sister has a rather unique method of remodeling her landscape. She has lived in her home for over 50 years. She takes one section at a time to remodel. She removes all plants from the area. Plants which are still in good condition or salvageable, she puts into pots and sets them aside for later reuse or to give to friends. (She has lots of friends eager to take her left over plants). Then she makes a plan and installs new plants. Sometime she reuses the plants that have been previously removed, usually in new locations. Her landscape is constantly changing, (like you might change the furniture one room at a time). The large, mature trees are one constant factor that give her landscape permanency.
Perhaps your family needs have changed and remodeling would make your landscape more useful. If you would like some ideas on how to remodel your landscape, send me an email. There is no charge for a half hour consultation. I do a lot of landscape remodeling.]]>
Their feeding causes leaves to become multi-colored, eventually turning brown and then falling off. They attack conifers as well as broad leaf plants. Check the bottom of multi-colored leaves.
Several pesticides are available which will kill mites. Washing plants with a strong spray of water is somewhat effective in removing them. They cannot find their way back onto plants from the ground. Add insecticidal soap or dish detergent for additional effectiveness. A simple hose nozzle can be used as a sprayer. Use a Siphonex or Hozon attachment to inject soap into the water from a bucket.]]>
Sprinkler and drip tube hoses can be an effective way to get extra water to trees. Most of the water absorbing tree roots are in the area just inside and just outside of the outer branches. A drip or sprinkler hose can be placed in a circle around a tree and allowed to run several hours until the water reaches a foot deep.]]>
Large trees such as fir, pine, maple, oak, and ash grow naturally to heights of 70 feet or more. With the exception of older poplar or cottonwood trees, they are not dangerous just because they have reached their normal mature size.
If you are concerned about wind damage to trees, the best way to prune them is to open them up by removing some of the inner branches so that wind can blow through the trees more readily. This practice is called “wind sailing” because it allows the wind to sail through with less resistance. Wind sailing is not recommended for large spruce and cypress trees, but it is for firs, pines and most deciduous trees. If there is good reason for reducing the height of large trees, they can usually be reduced up to 25% with proper pruning. A large branch can be shortened back to a side branch which is at least one third the size of the branch being shortened. This is sometimes called “drop crotch” pruning. The crotch is the point where two branches connect. If major branches are simply stubbed off at an arbitrary length without regard to side branches, severe damage can occur. If a weak or damaged branch does not have appropriate side branches, it is better to remove it completely back to its origin.
Needle evergreen trees should never have the center trunk topped or shortened. Stubbing or “topping” large branches of broad leaf trees causes them to produce many weak “water sprout” branches which grow straight up. These water sprouts grow very rapidly, quickly reaching the tree’s previous height in a year or two. Because of their weak connections to the larger branches, they are very subject to breakage. The wounds created by stubbing large branches are more subject to insect and disease infection. Some branches will die back, creating an even larger target for infection. The multitude of small branches growing like a witch’s broom on the end of bare larger branches destroys the natural shape and beauty of the tree.
Large poplars and/or cottonwood trees (including the new hybrid poplars) should not be planted close to structures. Their wood is more subject to wind damage than slower growing trees. Large branches are more likely to break regardless of how they are pruned.
If you are concerned about the health or danger of large trees, get an arborist to inspect them. We provide free tree assessment consultations.]]>
Rapidly maturing vegetables such as beans, green onions, spinach, lettuce, radish, beets, kale and collards can be planted now for harvest in September and October. All of these except beans are hardy to winter temperatures (although growth slows to a stop in December), and can be planted in September for harvest early next spring. Cauliflower, turnip, and carrot seed can be planted now for late fall or winter harvest.
I have found it helpful to cover seed with vermiculite, peat moss, or bark dust when planting during hot weather. Seed should be watered every day for the first 2 weeks. The mulch keeps the soil from crusting and also holds additional moisture near the germinating seeds.
Territorial Seed Company has a catalog especially for fall and winter vegetables. You can view the catalog or have a printed copy sent to you from www.territorialseed.com. There is also a winter planting chart showing which vegetables to plant when.
If you prune too late in the summer, new growth may not have time to harden up before winter cold, making it more susceptible to winter damage. As a general rule I prefer not to do heavy pruning past mid-September. Fall pruning can begin about mid-November.
The main pruning cut needed to return sheared shrubs to a natural shape is thinning. This means removing about 1/3 of the branches deep inside the shrub. Plants which have been sheared several times will have clusters of 3 or more branches growing out from the same point. Deeper in the plant, you will probably find another cluster. Prune below the first and second clusters if possible. With one cut, you will be removing 3 to 12 branches or branchlets. Remaining branches can be pruned by about half as much. I like to start at the bottom of the shrub and gradually prune branches shorter as I move up. This gives a rounded or curved natural shape.
If you prune evergreen shrubs back into the brown area with no green leaves remaining they will never produce new green growth. If they need to be reduced in size that much, they should be removed and replaced. Some flowering shrubs which have become overgrown can be drastically pruned back to within a few inches of the ground. They will grow new branches which can be pruned to retain a natural shape. Rhododendron, Pieris, Forsythia, Ceanothus, Escallonia, Euonymus, Hydrangea, Nandina, Viburnum, Barberry, Potentilla, Red Twig Dogwood, Spiraea and Lilac will all respond to this type of pruning. Remember, however, that you are sacrificing a year’s flowering when you do this.
Where branches are growing out over the lawn consider moving the lawn back so you have a wider bed for the shrubs. This will leave more room for shrub growth with less drastic pruning. Where shrubs are growing over a walkway or blocking windows, your best choice may be to remove them and plant shrubs which grow smaller.]]>
Most of us fertilize our plants when we plant them. With short season vegetables that mature in 60 days or less, such as radish, spinach and leaf lettuce, that is probably adequate. Longer season vegetables and flowers need repeat fertilization. Containers need the most frequent fertilization because of lower soil volume and more rapid drainage and evaporation. One of the first signs that plants need additional fertilizer is when lower plant leaves turn yellow.
Osmocote and similar coated, slow release fertilizers are my favorite for containers. They are the longest lasting. General purpose fertilizers such as 16-16-16 work well for flowers and vegetables.
If you are irrigating your lawn, another application of lawn fertilizer will keep it green through the summer. I always recommend lawn fertilizers which contain part of the nitrogen in a coated or slow release form. Organic fertilizers are naturally long lasting.
Reader Tip: I suggested in a previous column using the larger summer squash for zucchini bread. One reader made the following reply: “I make the world’s best zucchini bread and never use zucchini that are large or older. They are too dry. I use cucumber size only.”]]>