Monday, November 8, 2010

Reminder: Plant Your Fall Bulbs Now!

Last weekend I planted my fall bulbs. Planting time for fall bulbs depends on your zone and/or first-frost date. There are websites and blogs galore that can tell you which zone you live in and, based on that, when your average frost dates are. I am in zone 5, and my average frost dates are between mid-September and late October. Find your zone here.

The basic rules of when to plant are:
1. Before the ground freezes
2. After you are positive the warm spells are over (well, as positive as you can be with crazy Mother Nature).

In my area my bulb-planting date is usually around Halloween. Funny I say that, because this year I actually planted them on Halloween. It was drizzly and cold — the precipitation even turned to sleet for a minute. This is exactly the weather bulbs should be planted in. It's not pleasant for the gardener but good for the plants. Heck, even in the spring when planting seeds or seedlings, overcast, drizzly, or rainy days are said to be best for your plants.

Last year I bought garlic "bulbs" from Johnny's Selected Seeds — a garlic bulb is really a clove, and depending on the type of garlic, you can have 4 to 20 cloves. However, the really small cloves are not recommended for planting. I planted 27 cloves last year and harvested 27 heads of garlic — that’s over 100 cloves! I have been cooking with them and storing the rest in a cupboard in the basement. When properly cured, they will keep up to 8 months in a cool, dry, dark place.

My purchased garlic and a head each of German Hardy
garlic and Ajo Rojo that I harvested this summer

I bought a few more garlic bulbs for planting from Johnny's again this year, and I also saved some of my harvest to plant. I read that garlic evolves to suit its habitat. If you keep growing garlic from your harvest year after year, the garlic will adapt to your soil, climate, and so on.

Break the heads of garlic into cloves. Plant the cloves pointy side up.
Each clove should be planted in the soil 2 to 3 inches deep
and 6 inches from the next clove.

In total I have about 40 cloves in the ground. I chose German Hardy and Ajo Rojo — both types are recommended for the cooler zones of the Northeast. Those were the same varieties I chose last year, too. I marked where each batch was planted, so I can see if there is a difference. I have the new German Hardy, the new Ajo Rojo, my harvest of German Hardy, and my harvest of Ajo Rojo.

In addition to my garlic, I planted tulips and crocuses in my yard last weekend. I already have daffodils that sprout up every spring, but I want a little more variety. I chose mostly purples, blues, and whites. This weekend I am going to rake up the leaves in my yard, compost some of them, and spread the rest over my garlic patch and over the places where I planted my spring flowers.

I planted mostly the blue, purple, and white flowering bulbs.
The remaining bulbs I plan to plant in my grandmother's yard this weekend.

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible says :
"After planting, but before the ground freezes, mulch with a thick layer of leaves to protect the bulbs from freezing and heaving out of the ground; mulch also encourages worms, which help keep the soil friable."

Gardeners, plant those bulbs before the ground freezes — it's getting cold out there!

— Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager

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