By: Lisa Briggs | August 15th, 2019
Seesawing temperatures are the usual clue that we’re nearing the end of summer. But long-range weather forecasters predict that temperatures will hover in the very pleasant upper 70s and low 80s for the next 30 days, giving us lots of time to plant some fall veg and late-blooming annuals. So pretend for a moment that you’re just like the kids heading off to school. Think of your garden like a new box of crayons and add some color!
It is a bit early to plant spring-blooming bulbs like Tulips and Daffodils, but the best selection will be available right after Labor Day. Visit the Garden Center and choose your favorites. Then, store your bulbs in a dry, airy place that doesn’t get too warm. Make sure they aren’t in sealed plastic bags that can retain too much moisture or pile too high in a grocery bag. Layout the individual bulb bags in a tray or on a shelf and they’ll keep very nicely until early October when the soil temperatures will have moderated enough to spur root growth, but prevent leaves from sprouting.
When the temperatures do begin to tumble, be on the lookout for yellowing leaves on your Caladium, Dahlias, Begonias and any other summer flowering bulbs that are in the garden or in containers. If you want to save them for next year, you’ll need to get them out of the soil by the first frost. Be sure to dig carefully though, as many will have increased in size and may even have formed new bulblets. Leave them in a warm, airy spot for a couple of days and then remove the wilted foliage, carefully brushing off any excess soil. Place them in low, labeled boxes or flats filled with peat moss and store in a cool, dark location.
You can plant fall-blooming Colchicum, or Autumn Crocus, as soon as you get them home though, and get their spectacular blossoms yet this year, as well as a surprise for many autumns to come. Though mostly in shades of orchid pink, there is a white flowering variety available. Another really fun bulb to plant now is the Surprise Lily. Also called Naked Lilies, these beauties may not bloom for a couple of years, but they will be worth the wait. Remember that both of these bulbs produce leaves in the spring and then die back, so mark the spots where you have them planted.
This is the time to start the dormancy process for last holiday’s Amaryllis if you want flowers for Christmas and New Year’s. Remove the plants from their pots, cutting back the summer foliage and brushing the soil from the roots. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry and dark place for the next twelve weeks. You’ll be able to re-pot them before Thanksgiving and get blossoms for the winter holidays.
If you are planning to force bulbs for early spring, you should pot them soon after they are purchased. Most varieties need at least twelve weeks of chilling temperatures to initiate blooms. For the best results, store the planted containers in a place where the temperature is 35-45 F. A cooler in a garage where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too wildly is an ideal place.