Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses and other spring flowering bulbs can be glorious in the spring. They're easy to take care of but there are a few rules that should be followed closely.
The bulbs should be planted as soon as you get them in the fall. Dry bulbs appear capable of lasting indefinitely under any circumstances. That is far from the truth.
The bulbs are living, respiring and even growing.Cool temperatures and moderately dry conditions retard these processes, whereas warm, moist conditions increase internal acitivty. Warm, dry conditions dehydrate bulbs and weaken them.
The best place for the bulbs is in the ground unless you have a first-rate place to store them. Satisfactory storage temperatures are between 55 degrees and 65 degrees f. At these temperatures the bulbs can be stored for several weeks.
Prolonged storage above 65 degrees can cause physiological injury to the flower bud resulting in blind (non-blooming) plants. This is one of the reasons for not digging them up in the spring and planting them again in the fall.
Bulbs prefer well-drained soil. They do well when they get direct sunshine and plenty of moisture. Plant them on high or slightly sloping ground where excess water will drain away. If you plant them in a southern exposure, near a building or wall, they will bloom earlier than those planted in a northern exposure.
At planting time, loosen and dig the soil nine to 12 inches deep. If the soil seems too hard for roots to penetrate, dig eight inches deeper. Break up lumps throughly. Work compost, peat moss or decayed tree leaves into the soil. Apply a small handful of 5-10-5 fertilizer for a cluster of three to five bulbs.
Plant tulips six to seven inches deep, daffodils six inches, hyacinths four inches, crocuses, glory-of-the-snow, scilla, grape-hyacinths, and snow-drops with the tips of the bulbs two inches below the surface.
Space tulips, hyacinths and daffodils six inches apart. Too-close spacing results in crowded plants and prevents each flower from showing its intrinsic beauty. The smaller bulbs can be planted three inches apart.
After planting, soak the planted beds to dissolve the fertilizer and settle the bulbs. Where winters are severe, protect tulips, hyacinths and daffodils with two to four inches of straw, hay or leaves when the ground freezes one or two inches deep. Mulching prevents alternate freezing and thawing of the soil.
Crocuses bring color to earliest spring. Snowdrops bloom even earlier than the crocuses and will last years. Spring snowflakes resemble snowdrops but bloom a little earlier. Winter aconite is one of the earliest, brightest spring blubs. It blooms at the same time as crocuses. Q: When is the best time to prune my roses? Some say in the fall, others say in the spring. A: Almost all specialists recommend pruning roses in early spring or late winter. One reason for not pruning in the fall is that the canes contain stored food that would be lost. Dead or diseased wood can be pruned when discovered. Climbing roses that bloom only in the spring should be pruned soon after they finish blooming. Tree roses require heavy pruning in the spring and some pruning during the growing season to keep the tops from becoming too heavy for the stems. Q: We have a beautiful oak tree that had an infestation of galls this summer. The gall was a light-colored parchment-like ball, a little smaller than a golf ball, empty inside. If it happens again next year, what damage will it do to the tree and is there any practical way to prevent? A: The gall you describe is the oak apple gall. It is caused by the cynipid wasp. The immature insect is a legless white larva, the adult a four-wing wasp. This gall and most other galls cause little or no damage to trees, although a heavy infestation may affect the appearance of the tree. The only way to prevent the galls is to eliminate the insects that cause them, and that would be difficult and is seldom practical. Q: Are the tops of rutabagas edible? A: They are nutritious and flavorful if you get them while they are young, but become tough and too strong when they get old. Q: I've read that tomatoes can be picked just before frost, wrapped in paper, put in dim light, and they'll ripen and be almost as good as vine-rippened ones. But I tried it last year and the year before and they tasted awful, no better than the supermarket variety. A: Several specialists claim they can be ripened that way and be quite good; but numerous gardeners have told me what you have told me. I've tried it myself, with the same negative result. Maybe the tomatoes experienced low temperatures before being stored. Green tomatoes, the blossom ends of which have turned white, can be stored in dim light at 65 degrees f., and will ripen in about two weeks. They'll keep two or three weeks if stored in the refrigerator.