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Prepare to Plant Spring Bulbs

Procrastination will lead to failure

Garden centers are showing bulbs of tulips, narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and leucojum, as well as corms of crocuses. Home mailboxes have been filled with the fall catalogs of bulb companies.
    You may not be in the mood for planting bulbs, but now is the time. The earlier you plant in the fall, the bigger the flowers will be come spring. This is especially true for tulips. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower. What’s more, tulips planted in early fall in well-prepared soil will flower for several years.

A Bad Year for Pears and Pecans

Q    We have a pecan tree about 15 years old that has borne nuts quite well. This year the nuts are dropping prematurely before forming a good meat. What can I do about it?
    –Frank Boucher

A    Sorry to say there is nothing you can do. Excess rain earlier in the summer has caused problems with fruit and nut drop. I had a lot of pears on my trees, but most have dropped. This is a problem with deep-rooted trees like pear and pecan and wet soils, which deprives the roots of oxygen. It’s not a problem with shallow-rooted species like peach and apple.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

    Don’t wait until the soil cools; bulbs have to undergo a series of cold-temperature changes to flower. Don’t wait until the bulbs at the garden centers go on sale, either, for all the large bulbs will be gone. If you wait to order by mail, you may receive sold-out notices rather than bulbs.
    Most nurseries that market their bulbs through catalogs ship at the start of the planting season. This means that as soon as you receive your order, you should plant your bulbs.
    Every year new varieties of spring flowering bulbs are introduced, and those glossy catalogue photographs make them enticing. If you are more interested in dependability than in spectacular colors, select varieties that appear year after year.
    To corner the market, bulb growers and breeders do only limited testing. Many new varieties fail the test of time and disappear from catalogs within a few years. Save a few catalogs so that you can look back.
    Most bulbs sold in the U.S. are grown in the Netherlands, though some are grown in Michigan or on the West Coast. Where the bulbs were grown is generally indicated in the catalog.
    All bulbs grown outside the country must be free of soil and inspected on site by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before shipping. These measures are taken to prevent the spread of diseases and soil-borne insects.
    Get your bulbs now. I’ll tell you how to prepare the soil and plant them next week.