11th-Hour Tasks for Next Spring’s Garden

Plant spring bulbs now before the ground freezes

To help your tulip bulbs produce large flowers for several years, dig the planting holes at least eight inches deep so that the top of the bulbs are no less that six inches below ground. Plant in well-drained soils amended with at least one-third compost by volume. 

There’s no need to place a handful of sand under the bulbs. Sand is used by bulb growers in the Netherlands and in Holland, Michigan, so that when the bulbs are harvested for sale, they can be easily cleaned of soil as required under quarantine laws. Only bulbs that are free of soil can be shipped. 

Take geranium cuttings for next spring

If you have a favorite geranium plant you’d like to grow again next summer, now is the time to take cuttings. Cool fall days are ideal for geraniums to produce soft succulent stems that root easily.

Each cutting should have three to four leaves on a stem at least three inches long.

Dipping the ends of the stem in a rooting powder is helpful, especially if you cannot provide bottom heat to your propagating area.

I prefer rooting cuttings directly into sterile potting media so that as soon as roots emerge, they can begin absorbing nutrients. You can also root cuttings of geraniums in sand, perlite or vermiculite — providing you pot the rooted cuttings as soon as they have five to six roots one-half to three-fourths inches long.

The bottom of the rooting container should also have holes for drainage and should rest on stones or sand so that all free water can drain away. If the base of the cuttings stands in water, it will rot and not root.

A small heating cable that can provide 75 to 80 degrees will not only hasten rooting but will also stimulate rapid root growth. Covering cuttings with clear plastic will help maintain high humidity surrounding the leaves, preventing wilting. The plastic should not touch the leaves, and the chamber should be vented at least once daily. The rooting area should be in partial shade and not in full sun.

It generally takes one to two weeks for geraniums to root. Once they have rooted, place them in full sun but irrigate only when the rooting media feels dry. Always allow the rooting media of geraniums to dry before watering. Keeping geraniums well watered at all times is what kills them.

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