BULBS IN CONTAINERS

Bulbs can be planted in all kinds and sizes of containers as well as in the ground. You can use the same containers which you use for your summer flowers. Containers can be brought inside to enjoy earlier bloom. However, they need special pre-treatment. I have had best success with daffodils, but tulips, crocus, tulips, and hyacinths also do well in containers.

Any container which has drain holes can be used for planting bulbs. Pots with drain holes can be placed inside other decorative containers or saucers can be used to catch drain water.

Use a good quality container potting mix. You can reuse potting mix from previous container plantings. Do not reuse soil which has had diseased plants, especially root rot disease. I like to dump the soil out of containers into a large tub and break up the chunks. I remove any left over root and stem pieces. If you reuse old soil mix, add coated slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. If you use new soil mix, check first to see if fertilizer has already been added to the mix.

Fill the container with soil leaving enough space so the bulbs will be just covered with soil when soil depth is almost to the rim. Bulbs should be planted close together but not quite touching. Bulbs planted near the top of the container will have plenty of room for roots to grow. If containers are more than 8 inches deep, bulbs can be planted 2 or 3 inches deeper. After watering, loose soil will settle an inch or so below the rim, leaving room for later irrigation. Make sure enough water is applied to wet the container clear to the bottom. A little water should run out the drain holes. Irrigate whenever the soil dries on top.

Bulbs need a 12 week period when soil temperature is 40 to 50 degrees in order to develop a root system. If stored outside, bulbs will flower at about the same time they would in the ground. Containers can be placed in an extra refrigerator to speed up this root growth period. After 12 weeks in a refrigerator, containers can be brought inside for growth and bloom.

Bulbs can be planted in the ground or in containers until the end of December. Many stores reduce prices in November and December.

TRANSPLANT SHRUBS AND TREES

Dormant season from now through March is the best time to move trees and shrubs from one location to another. If you would like some help moving overgrown or out-of-place plants, give me a call. This is also an excellent time to plant new trees and shrubs.

PICK YOUR GREEN TOMATOES

If they have not been frozen yet, green tomatoes will ripen in a cool place. 50 degrees is an ideal temperature. Garage temperature comes pretty close this time of year. You can even cut off whole tomato vines and hang them on a nail. Some of the food in the vines goes into the fruit so it ripens sweeter than off the vine. However, there is a big mess of leaves to clean up. Be sure to keep fruits spaced apart so rotting ones do not spoil the good ones.

PRUNING YOUNG TREES

I was recently asked to prune two young trees about 10 feet tall. One had a major branch at about waist height which was almost as large as the main trunk. It looked like a double tree with side branches on both trunks. The other tree had a number of branches at about chest height. Then there was a gap with no branches followed by several branches at about 8 feet. The lower branches were irregular in length making the tree look lop-sided.

Pruning young trees when they are about 8 to 12 feet tall can make a big difference in their appearance and health. Pruning at an even younger stage can be helpful in correcting major defects.

The double trunk tree was growing at an angle of about 25 degrees between the trunk and branch. This means it has a weak attachment which could break in a storm and split the tree clear to the ground. When a young branch grows straight up and begins to look like a second trunk, it can be removed clear back to the trunk. If removed after it has grown too large, it will remove too many side branches and give the tree a lop-sided look. So we shortened it back by about half just above a major side branch. This reduced its weight and susceptibility to storm damage.

I like to shorten branches below 6 feet on a young tree to about a foot in length. These branches will be removed later after the tree has grown taller. By shortening them, they do not grow as large and leave a smaller wound when they are removed. Their leaves produce food which increases the diameter of the trunk and encourages growth of the upper part of the tree.

We shortened the extra long branches on the second tree by about 1/3, pruning just above side branches. They were too large to shorten any more. They can be shortened more next year and removed after other branches above them have developed. Some of the upper branches were also shortened or removed. Branches which grew inward or straight up were removed. Outward growing branches with wide crotch angles (angle between the side branch and trunk) were shortened. Shortening branches above and below the area without branches will encourage branch growth in the area between.

INDOOR PLANT FERTILIZER

My favorite container and indoor plant fertilizer is Osmocote or one of the other brands of coated fertilizer pellets. The porous coating allows water to seep through the pores, dissolve a little bit of fertilizer and seep back through the pores into the soil. Every time water is applied, a little fertilizer is released. The pellets generally last 3 to 4 months depending upon the size of pellet and the thickness of the coating. I usually mark the calendar so I will know when to make another application. I look for fertilizers with about twice as much nitrogen as phosphorus and potassium.

Liquid and soluble powders also work quite well but need to be applied more often. Directions usually indicate rates for monthly and constant feeding every time you water. I often use liquid fertilizer as a supplement to the coated pellets based upon plant appearance. When older leaves begin to turn yellow, it is time to fertilize.