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Q & A with Our Experts

Q.I see summer flowering bulbs are now available at garden centers even though it is still very cold. Is it safe to plant these bulbs in the ground now?

A.The bulbs on sale in garden centers at this time of the year are not the same types you plant in the fall for spring blooming. The spring-planted bulbs are for plants that bloom only in warm weather, starting in late spring. Many of them are repeat bloomers and will bloom almost continuously until the fall frost in November. However, they can be killed off by a hard freeze (temperatures well below freezing) should the soil temperature drop to those levels. These are the bulbs that are “lifted” from the soil and stored indoors in a cool, dark and dry location to hibernate until next spring, when they can be planted in the garden again.

Q.How do I prepare my irrigation system for the winter?

A.If you have an irrigation system to water you lawn or garden beds, make sure that you clear out all of the water that may still be in the pipes. The best way to do this is to blow it out using high pressure air from an air compressor. Water remaining in there may cause pipes to burst if it freezes in them during the winter.

Q.Can I plant shrubs and trees in the ground now, even though it is mid-January?

A.It is not the ideal time to plant shrubs and trees. But yes, you certainly can. However, winter planting means that plants being planted then will not become established until spring. This is because the soil is too cold now to promote root growth. It also means that if we get any hard freezes (extremely low temperatures in the ‘teens or below) the soil will become too hard to dig. But this winter’s temperatures so far, have been rather moderate and digging planting holes now should not be a problem. Please remember to mulch the soil area around the plants with at least a 2 inch-deep layer of mulch to protect the surface roots of your plants.

Q.How can I keep my summer bulbs safe from winter damage?

A.The flowers you have enjoyed all summer that grew from bulbs will need to be dug up, cleaned and stored away indoors for the winter. Tender summer bulb plants such as dahlias, tuberous begonias, caladiums, cannas, elephant ear, and ranunculus, should be “lifted” after their green tops have died and stored in a cool (50° to 60°F), dark and dry location until replanted in spring.

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