Want a blooming surprise party next spring? Try layering flowering bulbs now.
Now come back to the present moment and add a task to your fall clean-up! Now is the time of year to actually plant those flowering bulbs.
And if your yard is on the small side, there is a technique that will not only extend the flowering season and keep those spring blooms popping longer but will also work well in a smaller space.
This method is known as layering. And it will make it so you'll have a show of blooms that lasts up to a month instead of just a week! And you'll see that this planting technique makes it so which bulbs bloom and when a bit of a surprise.
Layering is fairly simple. It begins with a trip to your favorite garden center to choose a variety of spring bulbs.
Shop bulbs in different sizes and ones that bloom at differing times. Find the bloom times by checking the packages of daffodils, tulips, hyacinth. The labels will list either "early spring," "mid-spring" or "late spring."
Want to learn more about species tulips? Check this All Things Gardening episode: Double or single, fringed or twisted, the species tulip comes back year after year
Next, check for bulb sizes and choose some small, medium and large ones. Daffodils and hyacinths tend to be larger bulbs and some varieties even have differing bloom times.
Then, choose some flowering bulbs that are medium-sized, like a tulip or an allium and mix up the varieties and the bloom times amongst those, too.
Finally, grab some smaller bulbs like scilla and crocus. These flowering bulbs tend not to have a lot of variety in bloom times but you can still get a variety of types, just the same.
Once you've chosen a bunch, then bring your bulbs home and let the layering begin!
In an area that will get full sun and has well-drained soil (plus in a location where you can look out and see the blooms next spring!), dig a hole about eight inches deep. Then, using the native soil you've just dug up, backfill the hole about two inches.
This is where you'll plant your first layer with the biggest bulbs: the daffodils and hyacinths! Place them in the freshly-dug hole close together and almost touching, then cover with a bit of that native soil.
At this point, the soil depth is about four inches down. This is a good spot to plant the medium-sized bulbs like tulips and alliums. Place those in the hole and cover with soil.
Then lastly, put the smallest bulbs - the crocus and scilla - on top and cover with the remaining soil and water well.
Next spring, all the different varieties and sizes of bulbs will begin to sprout up at various times. Sometimes they'll come up in combinations, sometimes there will be solo. Either way, it'll be like a blooming surprise party!
This is a great way to have a lot of color and flower variety in a smaller space and over a good month's span with by layering flowering bulbs.
Q: We were fortunate enough to inherit a pear tree on the property we purchased. This year it made seven pears. Some are still ripening, but the one we ate was the sweetest pear we've ever eaten. They are small pears, but they're delicious. We did some pruning recently, because most of the tree is growing just on one side and we're trying to encourage growth on the other side. What can we do now or in the spring to help the tree produce more and potentially get larger pears? - Anne, via email
A: The great news is that you've found a pear tree whose fruits has a flavor you really like. Now, it's just a matter of treating it well so it will grow bigger pears and more of them!
You're on the right track with the pruning. Look into doing more pruning again this winter and try to prune off some of the vertical shoots on the pear tree.
Depending on the variety, the branch angles on certain pear tree types grow vertically while others grow more horizontally. The horizontal branches are the best ones for pear production. If you can take off a few of the vertical branches that may be shading or crowding other branches, that should help pear production.
And perhaps do a pH test of the tree's soil to determine if it needs fertliizer. After you determine the pH, add some lime, if needed.
Lastly, when your tree sets pears next year and if you get a whole bunch, thin them when they're the size of a half dollar so they are about four to five inches apart. That will give you fewer pears but better quality ones!
All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes.
You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.
Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition with Vermont Public host Mary Williams Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublic. We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.