As much as we love our gorgeous spring bulbs (the Glads, the Dahlias, the Calla Lilies, and all the rest) their beauty comes at a price: they cannot overwinter in our gardens. But that’s okay, because a little effort now will mean you can enjoy them again next year! Here’s how:
Note: For the sake of space (and a certain writer’s sanity), all varieties in question will be referred to as “tender bulbs” or just “bulbs”, even though most of them are corms/tubers/rhizomes/non-bulb beings.
What to Lift: You’ll need to lift any and all of your tender bulbs before the hard frost hits, including Dahlia, Gladiola, Calla Lily, Freesia, Anemone (not the Perennial/Japanese varieties), Ranunculus, Tuber Begonia, Tuberose, Caladium, and Canna Lily.
Well, we’ve made it. It took a lot of hard work, planning, and table space, but we are finally ready to put all those adorable seedlings outside…almost. You’ve been so patient with them, they just need a little more time before they can grow big and strong outside (and you can reclaim your tables and shelves!).
Experienced gardeners know a simple truth: in order to have the best crop possible, you must choose which of your precious plants will live, and which have to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you’ve been watching these adorable seedlings grow for a few weeks and you may now find yourself, well, a bit attached to them. However, sometimes you must be cruel to be kind. After all, this is the main reason you seeded extras of your varieties, knowing that some wouldn’t germinate at all and others would have to be thinned from the crop. Plus, some of your taller varieties may need to be “potted up” into slightly larger pots, which means less space on your seeding station which means less plants so…*sigh* it must be done.
What do you think of when you hear “flower bulbs”? Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, the usual. Now think of “Spring Bulbs” and what comes to mind? Tulips, Daffodils…well, yes, those all flower in spring, but they have to be planted in the fall. We’re talking about bulbs you plant in spring to get the gorgeous blooms anytime from spring through fall, depending on the variety. Yes, many are tubers, rhizomes, corms, and other non-bulbs; the point is that they’re all oh so pretty! Tip: Some will need to keep their foliage after they’re done flowering to absorb enough energy for next year’s flowers. Oh, and they all need a sunny location, at least 4-6 hours, to generate those blooms, and their tubers/corms/etc will need to be dry before going into winter storage.
At last! You have been so patient, getting all your supplies together, making sure you have the proper soil mix, and setting up your seeding station for all your future little sprouts. And now it’s time to put all that preparation to good use and get dirty!
Remember that mountain of information on your seed packets? Remember the all-important “Sowing/Start Indoors” date? No, no need to panic, you’ve still got plenty of time to double-check your dates. For vegetables, most of them want to be planted 4 – 8 weeks before the last frost, except for onions, leeks, and eggplants which take 10, and celery and celeriac prefer 12 weeks of cozy indoor growing. Flowering plants, both annual and perennial varieties, can vary but usually hit that 4 – 8 week window, as well.
Oh, one more thing! If you’ve got specific numbers in mind as to how many of each plant you want to end up with, make sure you sow a few extra of each variety just in case. This goes back to that tricky germination rate; some seeds just don’t take very well, no matter what you do to coax them out of hiding. So it’s better to have extra and then thin out the weaker ones later to get the best plants, but more on that in Part 4!
So, you’ve got your seeding station all set up, all your containers are washed and sterilized, and you’ve memorized the seed catalogue. Time to start seeding, right? Well, not quite yet.
Yes, it’s true that winter and early spring is a great time to start your seeds indoors, but it really depends on the varieties you’ve chosen. Some vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and most members of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.) need the extra few weeks indoors to get a head start on the season.
You look outside and everything’s cold and snowy, and you get excited because it’s almost Indoor Seeding time! Starting your seeds indoors is cost-effective and gives you more control over what products are used on your plants – perfect for anyone looking to make their garden pesticide-free.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, which is very easy to do right now (these cold, grey days are just begging for a burst of green!) Seeding is like trying a new recipe: we have to get the right materials, check the ingredients list, and follow the steps in the right order if we want to enjoy a delicious treat or, in this case, healthy new plants. So let’s start with Part 1: Materials & Ingredients.