14 April 2010
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
Today's spring bulbs form your template and tasks for next years blooms. Note well which ones emerged and how vigorously. Time to plan an additional plot or deepen and widen the original.
Mark the spots where blades rose without blooms, for thats where you will lift and separate the crowded bulbs (the most common reason for missing buds) as soon as the leaves have yellowed and withered.
Plastic flags flown from wire stakes or day-glo tape tied to metal, bamboo or other wooden poles will weather the elements until its time to raise and replant. Avoid day-glo spray-paint not good for your lungs and worse for this good earth.
Before you begin your lift-and-divide project, decide where you want to set the newly separated bulbs. Work that soil 6-8 inches deep to accommodate the larger bulbs. Its easier to do this now than deal with the drying, storing and subsequent planting in October.
Assemble your tools: clean flat or tarp, shovel, garden fork, curved garden trowel, hand-held garden rake about 2 feet long from handle to the tip of the tines, kneeling cushion of some sort and gloves that permit fine dexterity. For this task I prefer the more delicate hand-held garden rake to the thickened heavy garden claw.
Depending on your strength and soil density you may choose to begin with a shovel or a trowel. For the petite gardener, try the trowel, piercing the soil with the back of the blade facing the bulb foliage a shovel for larger plots and hardier hands. Ease the soil away from the bulb before you lift, making an open wedge for your garden fork or the hand-held garden rake.
Now youre ready to actually lift. Lower the rake or fork through the loosened soil searching for the soft resistance of the bulb. Raise the tool with your prize nestled in the curve, trying not to rip the roots or wound the bulb. Wounds are entry points for disease and pests.
Lay the clustered bulbs on the flat or tarp. Grasp two, one for each hand and gently loosen them from one another. No need to shake or sift soil, since you will replant straight away. Banish mushy, injured bulbs to the compost pile.
Settle-in those chosen to stay in their old bed, then transplant those destined for the other spot.
Use the Goldilocks method to tamp the soil around the bulbs, not too firm, not too light. Too light and the roots will dry out, too firm and the roots will smother in compacted soil.
Lift and relocate smaller, shallow-rooted bulbs like crocus, tte--tte daffodils, and grape hyacinth (Muscari) with the hand-held garden rake.
Mulch with a one-inch compost sandwich covered with 3 inches of shredded leaves, woodchips or bark. Of course, you could blanket with fresh sod to naturalize in the lawn.
Share your bounty but alert your gardening friends first, so they will be ready for the transplant moment, too. When they walk about their garden next year theyll be reminded of you and you will surely remember them as you tend the plants they have given you.
TIP OF THE WEEK
What a farmer does to her soil does not apply to what you should do to your landscape and garden. You do not need to work-in organic amendments every year. The best way to add organic matter is with compost in a layer beneath organic mulch or in the case of your vegetable patch, with a cover crop like alfalfa, buckwheat or clover.