Gardening Tips: May 14, 2014

Sequence of Bloom
I measured just about two inches of rainfall last week in my rain gauge, which we really needed to get things green. Although that amount of rain seemed like a lot at the time, the newly emerging vegetation has already absorbed or transpired most of it. Right now we could use some more rainfall but if it stays dry for a few more days, your garden soil may be tillable. It is still too early for warm-season crops like tomatoes, but you could plant lettuce and other cool season vegetables such as peas, beets, onion sets or transplants, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other greens. Make sure the soil is dry enough to till and the soil temperature is at least 50 degree. Raised beds covered with black plastic mulch should be fine and ready to plant.
Many of us enjoy watching a sequence of bloom from our bulbs and if you plan it properly, you could be enjoying spring bulbs beginning in mid-March (most years) and extending into June. Snowdrops generally start the season with a two to three week bloom period, followed by winter aconite, which last from one to three weeks depending on varieties planted. Snowflakes arrive next for a week or two and then come the lovely dwarf iris. There are many varieties of dwarf iris and they may bloom in sequence for up to four weeks, although any given type will only last a week or so. The same is true for crocuses, which are then followed by Chionodoxas, Squills and the tiny, very early daffodils, early tulips and grape hyacinths.

Other good choices
For the larger bulbs, anemones are first to bloom for two to four weeks followed by standard daffodils, hyacinths and frittilaria. You can plant different varieties of all of these to extend the bloom up to three weeks for each type. Finally, the big, spectacular, tulips arrive followed by Ranunculus, Ixias, Star of Bethlehem and finally erythroniums.
Of course I am using the term “bulb” rather loosely here as all these plants are surely not bulbs botanically. True bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and yes, onions or other alliums are complete plants that feature storage leaves, called scales, covered by a papery sheath, called a tunic and a hardened stem at the bottom that is called the basal plate, from which the roots emerge. If you dissect a true bulb vertically from pointy end down, you can clearly see these various organs. Corms, such as crocus or gladiolas are actually just modified stems with buds on them. They have no scales or leaves or basal plates. Tubers are also modified stems without a tunic or basal plate. They have a tough outer skin with buds and include anemones as well as the summer caladiums, the houseplant gloxinia and of course, potatoes! Finally are the tuberous roots, which are true roots and produce their buds on the crown. These include winter aconite, ranunculus and dahlia.