PLANTING A LAYERED BULB CONTAINER FOR SPRING

Although the forecast for Halloween is for a full-on gale we continue to enjoy a pretty great autumn here so I still haven't done much in the way of garden cleanup. One fall gardening chore I have accomplished, however, is planting bulbs.

It's been several years since I've planted any bulbs, but last spring I was kicking myself for not having more color around because it is so appreciated at that time. I picked up bulbs at Costco and from Brent and Becky's Bulbs (my first time ordering from then and I was very happy with my purchase) and planted them all in about an hour or two.

I'm not going to tell you how to plant bulbs because really it is the most simple of gardening tasks. Dig a hole to the proper depth (it'll be on the back of the package), stick the bulb in pointy side up, cover it with soil, water it and sit tight until spring. There are other things you can do, including fertilize with bone meal and recently I read a suggestion to soak bulbs in Moo-Poo Tea before planting. I don't honestly think you need to do either of those things if you start with good bulbs but they might help keep them going in future years.

I did try a little gardening experiment though. Growing tulips at my house is a pointless activity. Some critter always eats them. But they are so beautiful and I didn't want to go another spring without them. So I'm growing some in a container. In fact I'm growing a whole bunch of bulbs in a container.

I started with a medium-sized planter, the one I grew the patio tomato in this summer, actually. I also reused the potting mix I used for the tomato, although I added a lot of grit to it (I've discovered chicken grit, purchased at a feed store, for this purpose). Bulbs contain everything they need to grow, but they don't like being soggy, so good drainage is really important.

To create a layered effect of bulbs that should bloom from late winter or very early spring all the way through the warmest days of spring, I selected three varieties. I picked a late-blooming tulip (honestly, I can't remember the name but it was a purple and apricot mix from Costco), a mid-spring blooming daffodil ('Avalanche') and a mixture of very early blooming dwarf irises. If you wanted to try this same layering effect, you can really do it with any bulbs so long as you layer them from earliest blooming on top to latest blooming on the bottom.

Sure, I could have made a fancy Adobe Illustrator graphic for you, but this photo of a sketch I made took exactly one minute to create and you get the basic idea, right?

I started with enough soil in the container to be able to plant the tulips (the last to bloom) at their proper depth or a touch deeper (about 9 inches) and packed them in shoulder to shoulder. Then I layered on more gritty potting mix and planted the daffodils about 6.5 inches from the top of the container. I didn't have enough of these to pack them in as tightly, but I evenly spaced out the 10 bulbs I had.

Tulip bulbs packed in tight make up the bottom layer.

Daffodils make up the middle layer.

You get how this goes by now. I covered that with more soil and planted the irises about 3 inches from the top and covered them with soil, filling it all the way to the rim of the pot because I'm sure it will settle throughout the winter.

Dwarf irises are on top. These were then covered with potting mix all the way to the rim of the container.

What I didn't do was water the container at this point, which is a big departure from what you should do when you're planting bulbs in the ground. The potting mix was already really moist and I didn't want the bulbs to get too wet. When I was finished, I just stuck it in our unheated garage sort of in the middle and away from the walls. I have other containers I'll be storing in the garage for winter so I'll group them all together and maybe put some bubble wrap or something around them.

I'll bring out the bulb planter in late winter and give it a good drink and then hopefully the magic will start to happen. If all goes as planned, the irises will bloom first and as they are fading the daffodils will emerge. When those start to fade, the tulips will push through. Don't worry about all the bulbs being on top of each other: the plants will find their way around them.

If you're doing this, the key is to store the container in a cool enough spot. Bulbs need a certain amount of cold to bloom, so a basement is probably too warm.

And now comes the tough part: waiting for spring.


HOW 'BOUT THEM APPLES?

This year's harvest might have been unremarkable in many ways, but there was one very exciting crop: the first apples from my superdwarf Gala apple tree.

I won the tree at a winter gardening seminar a few years ago. It was donated by a local gardener who loves grafting fruit trees and is particularly interesting in superdwarf trees. Basically he grafts a regular apple onto superdwarf apple roots. What you end up with is a regular apple tree that stays very small.

He delivered it to my house the spring after I won it and gave me all kinds of tips on caring for it. I stuck it right in the middle of the perennial garden off the patio. That's not the first place one thinks for siting an apple tree, but I needed a little height in that area and since it will stay plenty small, I wasn't worried about it taking over. Plus, I wanted to be able to enjoy the blossoms up close.


For a couple years it hasn't done much of anything but this spring there were flowers. No heaps of them, but some. And after those flowers came fruit. I had already lost a few small apples to insects before I talked to the grafter at a garden tour and he told me his secret of putting plastic baggies over the fruit. I ran home and put baggies on the four remaining apples the tree and haven't given it much thought since.


A couple weeks ago I picked the first apple. It was umblemished, beautiful and crunchy. It was also just a tad sour because it wasn't fully ripened. Unlike tomatoes and pears, apples will not continue to ripen after you pick them so you need to leave them on the tree until they reach their desired ripeness.

Last week I picked the other three apples. They are delicious! And, like anything else you grow yourself, they taste even better than anything I could have bought at a store or even an orchard because, well, pride adds flavor. 

Four apples isn't much to get excited about but the tree is still very young and should produce more and more each year. And now that I know the baggie trick I should be able to enjoy many more of the apples that are on the tree.



FRIDAY FINDS

I really want to check out this book (hint, hint, somebody send me a review copy). And this one too.

Do you follow the One Room Challenge? Calling it Home organizes the One Room Challenge and selects bloggers to participate. The challenge is to completely redo a room in six weeks and post about it once a week. To me this sounds incredibly daunting. That's a lot of pressure. I can barely get my house clean in six weeks much less renovate a room!

Have you gotten your garden ready for winter? I haven't, but I'm extending the season as long as I can. The Prudent Gardener has a nice reminder sheet so you don't forget any steps.

New House New Home photo
This is a great reminder. Remember to take a little time to enjoy the season. You'll thank me come January!

Have you watched The William Shatner Project on the DIY network? I have to say, I liked it way more than most celebrity-renovates-house-on-tv-to-pay-for-said-renovation shows.

It happens every year: As the leaves fall, my thoughts veer toward indoor projects and I have a basement reno on the brain. This one is way fancier than I'd ever need or want, but it's awfully pretty.

Have a great weekend everyone!

APPRECIATING AUTUMN

Gosh, it's been such a busy week but I still can't figure out why. I'll put up my Friday Finds in a bit but I've had this post ready to go most of the week and failed to hit "publish" on it until today.

We are officially past the peak of autumn color here, but I think it has been a particularly beautiful fall. I couldn't let it pass without sharing a few photos.

Acer japonicum actonifolium never disappoints. In fact I'm seriously considering adding another of these beautiful trees to my yard.


This maple is always a stunner. I can't get enough of its bright orange leaves on days when the sky is a deep blue.


This is what it looks like when you peak up its skirt.


Many of its leaves have fallen. Right now our entire "front" yard is awash in yellows, reds and oranges. There is barely a bit of green to be seen.


And this is what happens at my house when you try to get arty and lay on the ground to take a picture of all the leaves.


 I hope you're having a beautiful autumn as well.