Tulip Growing Tips
by Jeanne Grunert - posted 08/19/16

I don't know about you, but I am absolutely in love with tulips. There's something about these flowers that makes me feel that spring has finally arrived. I'm not alone in my passion for tulips. In 1637, during the Dutch Golden Age, the price of tulips skyrocked on the open market much the same way that housing prices reached a bubble around 2007. People began speculating on the prices of tulips, driving the market prices higher and higher. Fortunes were made, then lost. But the tulip was forever embedded in Dutch history as an emblem of the nation and of the national pride in their gardens.

Today, we don't have to wait for a viral mutation, such as the first "Rembrandt" tulips experienced in the 17th century. Hybridizers have created gorgeous colors, mixed colors, frilly petals, and all the wonderful variations gardeners can choose from for their tulip beds.

Not all tulips are created equal, of course. Aside from the different flower colors, blooming times, sizes, and shapes, there are a few tricks of the trade to use when choosing your tulip bulbs. I learned these from Dutch bulb growers when I worked in the garden center industry, and have passed along these secrets ever since. They are easy to remember and will help you grow bigger, better tulips.

 

  • First, when it comes to tulips, "bigger is better". The bigger the bulb, the larger the flowers. The bulbs store the energy for the flowers, and a larger bulb circumference hints at a large, gorgeous flower hidden beneath the coat. Choose the largest bulbs you can find.
  • Don't worry about the brown skins floating about in the bag of tulips. These are called the tunic of the bulb, and like an onion skin, they simply slip off when the bulb dries out during storage and shipping. It's unimportant to the health of the bulb inside.
  • Label your bulbs when you plant tulips. This way in the springtime, you won't dig them up when you want to plant other annuals.
  • Leave the leaves on your tulips after flowering, and let them die back naturally. The leaves are the food factories of the plant. Through the process of photosynthesis, the plant produces food for its growth, reproduction and development. If you cut the leaves back too soon, you cut off the plant's food supply, and it might not bloom again next year.
  • Bulbs like tulips are susceptible to squirrels, mice and voles. Use a spray product like Ropel, available at your garden center, to keep critters from nibbling at the bulbs. Follow package directions. While it's not harmful, it can leave an awful taste in your mouth for hours if you accidentaly get some on your hands and touch your lips.
  • If deer are a big problem, keep tulips planted close to your home. Plant daffodils in open areas frequented by deer. Deer may nibble a few, but tend to leave them alone.

 

Now is the time to start shopping for tulips. The stores and catalogs have the best selection. Visit your local garden center for varieties suitable for your area. Store bulbs in a cool location until you are ready to plant them, which for Virginia means anytime between Columbus Day and Veteran's Day.

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Help for Tired-Looking Containers
by Jeanne Grunert - posted 08/12/16

I don't know about you, but at this point in the summer, I'm starting to look about as frazzled as I feel. My hair turns into a frizzy tumble, my skin is partially tanned (oh, that farmer's tan!) and my garden is a jumble of weeds thanks to the unrelenting Virginia heat. Can you relate?


That said, my plants are also starting to look a little burned-around-the edges. I'm not talking about sun damage, which is an actual problem with some plants. I'm simply talking about the progression that annual flowers make in one year, from seed to flower to seed again, that makes them begin to look slightly bedraggled at this time of year.

Many annuals, such as petunias and even impatiens, can become leggy and thin as the summer wears on. The unrelenting heat, water that leaches nutrients out of the soil, and simply the cycle of life all take their toll.

If your annuals are looking a little peaked at this time of year, there are several things you can do to perk them up:

  • Trim or deadhead spent flowers from the plants. This encourages the plants to produce more buds to replace any lost opportunities to scatter their seeds.
  • Hand pick or trim browned leaves from your plants.
  • Remove any dead annuals from window boxes or containers.
  • Replace with fall flowers, with are already making their appearance in local garden centers. Pansies and some late annuals that can withstand a bit of cool weather are great to replace spent annuals.
  • Fertilize your planters or containers with a liquid fertilizer dissolved in water. A simple 10-10-10 or 10-20-10 solution is fine.
  • Water your plants well to maintain even moisture.

For many gardeners, containers, pots and window boxes create the perfect garden. Make sure yours is bright and beautiful as the season ends by giving it a 'trim and a shave' now before the fall.

 

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Summer’s Bounty - and What to Do with It
by Jeanne Grunert - posted 08/05/16

I don't know about you, but my garden is overflowing with produce this year - and for that, I am grateful. Aside from the losses thanks to the crows, who seem to raid my garden daily, I have an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and carrots. Yes, I plan to can much of it. I'm making salsa tomorrow, canning tomato juice, and figuring out innovative ways to use those carrots.

But what if you have extra produce even beyond what you can can, dry, or refrigerate? Here are a few ideas to share your garden goodies this August:

  • Donate it: Some food pantries and shelters accept donations of fresh produce. Call ahead to find out when to drop off fresh vegetables, since they should be refrigerated as soon as possible. To find food pantries, call your local county services office, Meals on Wheels, or local churches.
  • Share it: Share the wealth! Do you have any elderly neighbors who might appreciate a few fresh tomatoes from the garden? Pack a basket full and carry it over in person. Make it a point to sit and chat for a while. It's a kindness that goes a long way.
  • Bake it: Bake excess goodies like zucchini and carrots into muffins, cakes, breads and other treats. Freeze them for gift-giving in the fall when summer is but a fond memory.
  • Throw a party: Yes, throw a big old summer fest right in your yard. Fire up the grill, serve some hamburgers or hot dogs, and make the biggest tomato and cucumber salad you've ever seen. Share the bounty by sharing the wealth with friends and family.

Canning fresh produce is a lot of fun, but so too is sharing it. If your garden overflows with abundance this summer, let your heart overflow with gratitude, and share the wealth. It's something gardeners are good at. After all, the garden is generous to us, and we in turn should be generous with its gifts.

 

 

 

 

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