Fall is the time to think spring flowers

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By Christin Herbst, Extension agent, agriculture and natural resources

After last week’s article on mulching and composting yard waste during the fall season, I suspect that your lawns and flower beds are clean as a whistle and ready for planting, right?

Mulching and composting that yard waste will be an ongoing process during the fall, especially after the high winds we experienced this past weekend.

The downed leaves will certainly give you plenty of mulching and composting practice.

Fall is the time to think about all those flowers we associate with spring: daffodils, crocus and other easy-to-grow flowering bulbs. Spring-flowering bulbs are an excellent addition to your landscape, as they are easy-to-grow plants that provide early color to your garden.

These bulbs are planted in fall because it corresponds to the end of their natural dormancy. In general, plan on planting spring-flowering bulbs between Oct. 15 and Thanksgiving. Most of these plants begin root growth in fall, followed by a cool stratification (or a moist, chilling) period necessary for proper flower development.  

Shoot growth proceeds in late winter and early spring.   

No matter which bulbs you select, remember that the largest bulbs (2 inches or more in diameter) will produce the greatest show next spring. Smaller bulbs (about 1 inch in diameter) will still produce some flowers, and these may be the best choice for mass planting or naturalizing. 

Avoid any bulbs that feel lightweight, as these may have severely dried during storage.

It is important to plant flowering bulbs at the proper depth, so inquire about plant depth at the nursery or follow the label directions.  In general though, smaller bulbs should be planted at 5 inches deep and larger bulbs at 8 inches deep. The depth helps to protect bulbs from frost, animals, and physical damage from hoeing.

A light application of bone-meal fertilizer at planting is often recommended. Most bulbs do not need fertilization until growth emerges in the spring.

When you see plants emerging, apply 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer (like 10-10-10).

Once flowering occurs, remove the faded blooms, but do not remove the foliage. The leaves produce sugars and other compounds necessary for the bulb to overwinter and bloom again the next spring. Most bulbs will enter dormancy in late spring or early summer and will renew growth, starting with the root system, in the fall.

Spring-flowering bulbs include crocus, daffodil, wind flower, hyacinth, tulips, and grape hyacinth, among others.

For more information on planting spring-flowering bulbs this fall and a more complete list of flower varieties, call the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Dates of interest

  • Oct. 29: Carroll County Cattleman’s Association Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.
  • Oct. 30: Master Stocker Program, Session four of eight, 6:30 p.m., Boone County Extension Office.
  • Nov. 6: Extension Office closed for Election Day.

Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.