The last week of October means it is time to rip out your weary, frost-bitten annuals plants such as marigolds, petunias and tomatoes and add them to the compost pile.
What to do with all of the potting soil left in your container gardens?
You can add spring-blooming bulbs to them this week and enjoy pots of daffodils, tulips and early blooming crocus in the spring.
If you’ve been disappointed with a lack of blooms from bulbs before, try putting them in pots. Even if you pot your bulbs into plastic nursery pots and then sink them into the ground you’ll be protecting them from the bulb-chomping field mice or voles and also ensuring good drainage.
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Our wet, winter weather can rot bulbs planted in a low spot or into clay or poorly draining soil.
I want to make bulb lasagna and layer some bulbs into my container gardens. How deep do I have to plant bulbs in pots? – T.P., Tacoma
Mama Mia – now is a great time to cook up spring beauty with bulb lasagna. The general rule of green thumb is to plant your bulbs three times deeper than the height of the bulb. The biggest and tallest tulip bulbs go into the container first, sitting on top of at least 3 inches of soil then covered with another layer of soil. Bulbs that are 2 inches tall should be covered by six inches of soil. Next, add a layer of medium-size bulbs such as dwarf ‘February Gold’ daffodils and cover with at least two inches of soil. Then place the smallest bulbs such as crocus or snowdrops in the last layer and cover these 1-inch tall bulbs with at least 3 inches of soil.
You’ll have layers of bulbs just like layers of noodles in a dish of lasagna with each layer covered with soil – instead of cheese. You can even add winter pansies on top of your bulb lasagna planting and enjoy color all winter with a burst of blooms that will come up right through that frosting of pansies in the spring.
But you don’t need to build your bulb lasagna only in a pot. If you have a well drained spot in your garden, dig in and start layering bulbs and soil now. Planting spring bulbs is an act of faith that brings heavenly rewards each spring.
We have deer that ate the tops off of our tulips last spring just before they bloomed. I was so upset I admit that I cried a few tears. This year, I want to try again. Are there any bulbs the deer won’t eat? There is no way to fence my yard, and nothing scares away these very tame deer. – R.P., Olympia
Daffodils are the way to grow if you want to say “Not tonight, deer” and get some rest from your deer nightmares. Although the local overpopulation of deer has created a new breed of animal that prefers suburban gardens over native vegetation, they still don’t like the taste of daffodils but will occasionally graze on a few blooms.
Daffodil bulbs also are poisonous to mice moles and voles. Daffodils do especially well under the branches of deciduous trees such as Japanese maples that lose their foliage in the winter.
I heard that if I plant Fritillaria bulbs in my garden, it will scare away all of the moles. I am getting desperate and will try anything as the moles are digging up my entire front lawn. Will fritillaria send the moles packing? – D., email
I wish it were true, but you should plant fritillaria for the impressive spring flowers, not for any underground maneuvers you think they might make against moles.
This myth persists because fritillaria are not eaten by rodents and have a strange smell. The best mole control is still a trap (chewing gum, gas, plastic worms and flooding mole holes might only encourage them to make new tunnels).
In our state, it is not illegal to sell mole traps or to use them if moles are causing damage that could harm you or your family, such as broken ankles from holes in the lawn.
One brand name is “Victor Out O- Site” mole trap sold at local garden and home center stores, but this trap also is sold on Amazon.com with a lot of customer reviews and tips to safely set the trap.
Moles do help aerate the earth, but when they continue to dig up an entire lawn, either replace the lawn with groundcover or learn to set a mole trap.
Marianne Binetti is the author of several books. For gardening questions, write to her at www.binettigarden.com.