Ron Kujawski: Time to place that bulb order for spring-time blooms

With the arrival of autumn my thoughts have turned to spring — spring flowering bulbs, that is. As such, I am putting together my spring bulb shopping list. Since the blossoms and foliage of the bulbs I've planted in the past became fodder for winter-starved deer, the bulk of my new bulb plantings will consist of deer-resistant species. Those which grow well in sunny or part shady locations include daffodils, Fritillaria imperialis, Siberian squill, grape hyacinths, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), snowdrops, winter aconite and alliums. Bulbs for shady or woodland sites include Puschkinia, English and Spanish bluebells, Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda) and dog tooth violet (Erythronium). I believe putting up a sign pointing to your neighbor's yard may also help deter deer from dining on your bulbs.

Deer are not the only critters who find spring flowering bulbs a dining delight. Many rodents feed on newly planted bulbs. I recall a tip I received from a reader of this column several years ago on keeping squirrels and other rodents from eating your bulbs. She achieved successful rodent deterrence by placing about an inch of crushed oyster shells (available at feed stores as chicken scratch) in the bottom of planting holes. After setting in the bulbs, they were covered with another layer of crushed shells and then finished by filling in the holes with soil.


I've noticed that other writers of columns in this newspaper often answer questions from their readers. So, I dove into my mail bag (a small sandwich-sized one) and found the following:

Q: HEY YOU! You're the guy who says that if I haven't seeded my new lawn by mid-September I should wait until next spring. Well, I'm gonna prepare my soil NOW by tilling it, working in some peat, along with ground limestone, at a rate of 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet and 10-10-10 fertilizer at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. PAY ATTENTION! Then I'm gonna scatter grass seed just before the ground freezes in November. That's the way a lot of old timers did it. The grass seed works its way into the soil as the ground freezes and thaws through the winter. Yea, I know! It's not the best way to seed a lawn, but I'm not gonna wait until next spring. Ya got any objections?


Big Al

A: Uh, no!


I also have no objection to anyone taking on these tasks:

- Celebrate this first weekend of autumn by taking note of the many ornamental trees and shrubs with decorative fruit. Though woody plant bloom is about over for the season, fruit on many landscape trees and shrubs is maturing and is quite attractive and enhances the fall landscape.

- Take all the prescribed precautions and do regular tick checks when working outdoors. With leaf-raking season just ahead, be aware that deer ticks love to hide among the leaves. Tick-related diseases are extremely serious. The UMass Amherst Laboratory of Medical Zoology ( tests ticks for Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens.

- Sow a pinch of leaf lettuce seed in flower pots or small flats. Placed on a sunny windowsill, the plants should thrive and supply some fresh greens for part of the winter. Since the market price of lettuce in winter often approaches that of gold, growing even a little of your own lettuce may not be a bad deal.

- Move spring blooming perennials that you wish to relocate within your garden. As a rule of thumb, spring flowering perennials are moved in late summer and fall flowering plants are moved in spring.

- Wait until frost has nipped their leaves before digging up begonia tubers and dahlia roots. On the other hand, gladiolus bulbs may be left in the ground as long as you dig them before the ground freezes.

- Ease up on watering house plants as we head deeper into autumn since growth of these plants slows, with some going dormant. Since their growth slows or stops, gradually cut back on fertilizer applications. Rarely do house plants need fertilizer in winter.

- Rake up and remove fallen leaves from trees and shrubs that experienced leaf diseases this year. While this may not guarantee disease-free plants next year, it will reduce or slow such infections next spring.


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