When buying spring bulbs, choose the ones that are plump and firm, avoid bulbs that are dry and withered, spongy or moldy.
Plant spring bulbs after the first killing frost, or when the soil temperature cools down to 60 ° F. Before the ground freezes about mid-November.
Spring blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth prefer full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sun. Also, it is important to plant them in well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. Compacted clay soil will promote bulb rotting in cool weather. If your garden has heavy clay soil, mix compost with the existing soil when planting the bulbs.
In order to encourage vigorous blooms and strong root growth, mix high phosphate fertilizer with the existing soil when planting.
Generally spring bulbs are planted to a depth of 3 times their diameter, but it is best to follow planting instructions from the package.
Plant the bulbs with pointed side up. The pointed end is the stem, and the flatter end is where the roots will grow. Don’t worry if you cannot tell the difference, eventually the stem will find its way out.
To prevent animals from digging out the bulbs use barriers or repellents. A cage made of hardware cloth makes a good barrier. A repellent could be crushed ghost peppers in the planting hole and on the planting area.
Spread 2 inches of natural mulch over the soil, this will help to prevent weeds in the spring.
Water the bulbs after planting to help them settle in and close any air pockets. The bulbs would need to be watered during the winter only if the winter is extremely dry.
Mark the area where you have planted bulbs, to avoid trying to plant something else in the same spot
Collect seeds from your favorite plants, and save them for next year.
How to Save Seeds?
Fall is the best time to collect seeds from your favorite plants in the garden. This is an activity that has been practiced for years, because it is an easy and economical way to keep enjoying plants year after year.
Collect seeds when plants are mature, the flower attached to the plant has to be dried out. If you do it while the flower is still fresh the seed will not germinate because it has not collected the necessary nutrients from the environment as well as from the plant itself.
In a seed there is an embryo that has plenty of nutrients to survive for years (depending on the type of seed). Some seeds can live for up to 10 years. The seed will germinate when the right conditions are present. The conditions needed are the right temperature, water, light and the proper location. The optimum soil temperature for most seeds to germinate is above 70° F.
Make sure the seeds are dry before you store them. Spread them on newspaper and let them air dry for about a week. Seeds should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place.
Ideally, seeds are stored in a refrigerator, about 40-45° Fahrenheit. Packed in small paper bags labeled and dated. To avoid moisture you could place the paper bags in sealed jars.
If you store seeds in your home refrigerator, it is good idea to let everyone know that you are storing seeds in the refrigerator, so no one eats them or discards them!
FYI: seeds from orchids do not contain nutritional storage tissue.
Dig up tropical bulbs, corms, tubers such as elephant ears, cannas, caladiums, dahlias etc., and save them for next year.
Saving Tropical Bulbs, Corms, and Tuber
Autumn is the best time to dig out tropical bulbs, tubers, and corms such as cannas, elephant ears, caladiums, dahlias, etc. After the leaves on these plants have turned a little brown from the weather, it is time to dig them out and store them. The falling temperature and the short days are signs for these plants to go dormant.
Cut the stems back to about six inches from the ground and dig up the plants.
Wash the soil from the bulbs and allow them to air dry.
Once the bulbs are dry, gently separate them, this will assure you will have more tropical plants next year.
Use a well-ventilated container such as a milk crate, or a wooden crate. Put a layer of peat moss, extra shredded mulch, or sawdust, in the container and then put in some bulbs. Create layers of peat moss, mulch or sawdust and bulbs. The purpose of the layers are so the bulbs do not touch each other. Make sure the bulbs on top are completely covered.
Label the crate and place it in a dry, dark place where the temperature is between 40 to 50 ° F. Check the bulbs once a month, discard any rotten ones. Spray a little water on the ones that have shriveled.
About mid-March re-pot the bulbs, mix a slow released fertilizer with the potting soil, water the container, and watch the plants grow indoors again. Plant them in the garden or take them outdoors after the risk of frost is over (about mid-May).
More gardening Tips
- Discard leaves containing pests or diseases; do not add them to the compost pile.
- Cut back perennials that have turned yellow or brown. Some perennials such as grasses, coneflowers, yarrow, etc. can be left standing for winter interest.
- Excess fallen leaves could be shredded and used as mulch on garden beds once the ground has frozen hard. Also, they can be added to the compost pile.
- Water evergreens if rain is sparse. Evergreens continue to transpire (lose water) during the winter and need to be well hydrated before the ground freezes.
*Please note that these tips are specific to the climate and growing conditions of the Chicago land area only.