Spring Forward with Bulbs and Seedlings
Warmer days herald another growing season and call the avid gardener outside
for planting and soil preparation. But there's a lot you can do indoors to
get a jump on the season, by starting seedlings now. And if you prefer to
procrastinate, wait for fall to plant bulbs that will bloom in early spring of
Year 2000. Either way, you'll be an early bloomer.
Seedlings. Pick your favorite seed varieties and assemble flats or pots,
along with potting soil. Remember, it's not a good idea to mix different
varieties in the same flat or pot because they have different growing
characteristics. The key to successful germination and growth is warmth.
You'll need to find a spot that's 70 degrees or warmer for the best results.
Add potting soil to your pots or flats, and mix in some perlite for aeration.
Pack it down lightly, and spread seeds over the top of the soil, or push them
in using a pencil. Then cover the seeds with soil according to the depth
indicated on the seed packet, and firm the soil to ensure that it adheres to
the seeds. Use a lighter touch for watering, you don't want to wash your
carefully-prepared seeds into oblivion. Use a spray bottle or place the flats
in an inch of water for an hour. Once sprouted, move your budding creations
into ample light and slightly cooler temperatures.
Bulbs. Bulbs are hardy, colorful plants that require little maintenance. Once
established, they perform reliably year after year. Their distinctive shades
offer the first glimpses of color in early spring. But put these on your to-
do list for later--planting takes place in the late summer or fall. When
planting, use a trowel or bulb-planting tool to make a hole that's slightly
deeper than the recommended planting depth. Add a little sand and set the
bulb firmly to prevent air pockets. Daffodils, or jonquils, are prolific
bulbs that beat all other early bloomers to the punch. In the warmer zones,
they started blooming in early February of this year, providing an early shock
of color to Southern gardens. Many varieties actually require cold weather
for weeks or months in order to rid themselves of a biochemical that retards
growth. Once they're "drug-free," the bulbs sprout into stalks topped by
yellow, orange and white blooms.
Sources used for this article include writers Jon Franklin, Lee Reich, and the
Raleigh News & Observer and Associated Press.