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Fall bulbs. Photo: <a href="">Bob Holland</a>, CC <a href="">some rights reserved</a>
Fall bulbs. Photo: Bob Holland, CC some rights reserved

Last call for the Fall bulbs

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It's finally time, after a long, warm fall, to plant bulbs for spring flowers, and for next year's garlic.

In their weekly gardening conversation, horticulturist Amy Ivy and NCPR's Martha Foley talk about what to plant, where, and how.

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Martha Foley
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It has been rather warm over the past several weeks to do fall planting, but, “The time is finally now… we’ve been waiting for it to get a little bit cooler, so that we could get that good root growth and not the top growth.” Garlic and all the spring blooming bulbs should be planted now, Amy said--which can be a lot to get done.

For garlic, take only the very best heads; if it looks a little off, don’t plant it. Break the heads apart into individual cloves, bit don’t peel them. Then plant them two inches deep with the pointy end up, and 4-6 inches apart. For mulch, put six inches of straw on top if you have it, or a couple inches of chopped up leaves.

It is a good time to visit local stores and markets, says Ivy, because a lot of bulbs will be on sale. Any spring bulbs are good to get--tulips, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, etc.. The packages will say how deep to plant each bulb, (measurement is from the top of the bulb). When in doubt, Ivy recommends this rule of thumb, “You usually plant the bulb so there’s twice as much soil on top, above it, as the bulb is high.”

For a more natural look, Ivy says to throw the bulbs and then plant them where they fall. It creates a random look, and can be done with any of the spring bulbs, but remember to leave a 4-6 inch spacing. However, Ivy said some plants , like tulips, look better clumped together.

There is also a method called forcing, that can be used to grow from bulbs indoors. You will need a steady climate of around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant into pots and then move the pots to a steady, cool location. The best spot Ivy found was a bulkhead to her basement, because it kept them in a nice cool climate. An attached garage could work, if it can heated to the proper temperature.

Bigger bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, need 10-12 weeks at the 40-degree mark, while smaller bulbs such as crocus only need about 6-8 weeks. After that, you can bring them inside and add a little bit of color to your winter months.

During the cold, wet months of spring, having flowers blooming can be a big plus. “I think spring bulbs are great,” Ivy says, “It really gives me a lift.” Ivy usually plants a little patch of smaller bulbs near her house that she can see all the time as she walks in or out. She leaves the showier plants for the garden, so she can see them from the house.

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