Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Nature's Miracle - Spring Bulbs!

~March 23, 2011

Chances are, you have noticed the selection of tulips, daffodils and crocus flowers expanding at retailers across Canada over the last few weeks. Truth is, most of these are not only grown in Canada in commercial greenhouses but we actually grow so many of them that they are deemed an ‘export’ crop. Go figure. And you thought we only sold wheat abroad.

Now is the time to bring these treasures home. There is more than meets the eye or even the nose with spring flowering bulbs: let me explain.

Spring flowering bulbs bloom for a long time. The secret is to keep them in a bright room but not in direct sunlight. The more sunlight that they receive the faster that they finish blooming.
They do not need fertilizer. Not while they are in bloom anyway: that is the ‘miracle’ part of the thing. All of the nutrients are built right into the bulb.
Spring flowering bulbs will last for years. How is that, you say? Well, after they have finished flowering THEN place them in bright sunshine where the leaves will absorb the energy of the sun, convert it into plant sugars and push those natural energy boosters down to the root zone where they store the energy ‘til next season.
After the leaves have turned yellow, plant them in the garden, in a sunny position. Because they are very winter-hardy this works in most any part of the country. Next year they will bloom at their natural time of year.

Is now a good time to plant bulbs in the garden?

Yes and no.
Yes, you can sink a pot full of forced bulbs into the garden, being careful not to do it so early that a really deep frost kills them off. On the other hand, they have ‘built in anti-freeze’ and as such are resistant to frost down to about minus 8 for the most part.
If you plant pre-started flowering bulbs in the garden you will get a record early show of colour and likely fool a lot of your neighbours into thinking that you are some kind of miracle/green thumb.

No – you plant the bulb itself in the autumn.

How do I keep squirrels out of my bulbs?

Short answer is not to plant tulips – they are edible to both humans and rodents.
Narcissus and daffodils are not the least bit interesting to squirrels and are considered mildly toxic.
The other answer is to plant your tulips with chicken wire placed over the top of them to deter the little pests.

How long will flowering bulbs last in my garden?
Depends on the species and variety.
As a rule tulips will last up to 4 years, daffodils 5 or 6 years and hyacinths 3 or 4 years.
However, when you shop for bulbs this fall look for the words ‘suitable for naturalizing’ and plant these. They will grow and improve year after year forever.

Another note:

With night time temperatures flirting above freezing in many parts of the country these days, it is time to think about applying Green Earth Dormant Spray. It is a natural combination of mineral oil and lime sulphur. Both are harmless to plants and people but when sprayed in combination they will kill and otherwise control overwintering insects and diseases.
This is a ‘must do’ for fruit trees, roses, berries, flowering shrubs and any deciduous plant material that gives you problems in this department during the gardening season.
I highly recommend that you apply this before the flower or leaf buds break open.

Keep your knees dirty,