COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Great time to purchase and stock up on bulbs

By Marianne Binetti

The second week of November is a light bulb moment – think about bulbs this week and it will be light on your budget. Thrifty gardeners know that bulbs sold in bins or mesh bags at home centers, nurseries and discount stores go on sale for half price or less as retailers make way for Christmas displays. You can scoop up these bargain bulbs and do more than just plant them in your garden. Here are a few ways to spread the joy of spring-blooming bulbs

1. Practice Guerilla Gardening – Sneak a few bulbs into public spaces.

I am sure this little maneuver is technically illegal so consider it an act of civil disobedience – or obedience to becoming more civil. You may be tempted to do your digging under the cover of darkness, but this will only add to your suspicious behavior. Be bold, be bulbous and plant a few bulbs near the front door of your public library, the parking lot of the grocery store, outside the post office and amongst the shrubbery of your church, business or the local police station. Asking permission first is optional. Work quickly with a small spade and pop into the ground just three dwarf daffodils, a pair of crocus bulbs or a single tulip. You don’t want to stir up any maintenance issues by planting rivers of spreading muscari (little blue grape hyacinths) or disturbing large areas of weed-suppressing mulch. Just one or two well-behaved bulbs that will sing an unexpected grace note in the spring. Think of the joy next March when one pristine daffodil pokes up in the midst of the evergreen and ever boring landscapes that you pass each day doing errands. A random act of bulb planting is a random act of kindness.

2. Think Christmas and pot up some spring-blooming gifts.

More families are insisting on handmade gifts and if knitting and baking elude you then baking some bulb lasagna is just the recipe you need for a budget-minded but very personal Christmas gift. You don’t even need to purchase fancy pots or potting soil. Inside each bulb is an already formed and ready-to-bloom flower. Fill a one-gallon, recycled, plastic nursery pot half full of sandy soil or quick draining potting soil. Place six tulip bulbs or four daffodil bulbs on top of the six inches of soil. Cover with another three inches of soil. Next add a layer of early-blooming crocus or snow drop bulbs. These smaller bulbs need only two inches of soil as a blanket. In a larger pot you can make three layers of bulbs, layering soil and bulbs as you would cheese and noodles for a lasagna. That’s it. Store your potted treasures in their recycled pots outdoors and during the holidays you can grab a pot, slip it inside a gift bag and enclose a tag of instructions: “This pot contains spring. Keep outdoors and let the rain keep it moist. Expect signs of new life to start in February, with a second wave of blooms in April.”

This is a gift no one will try to exchange.

3. Plant life in your death zones.

We all have areas where nothing wants to grow. Usually this is because the soil is too dry, too rocky or too full of roots from the competition of fir or cedar. But the secret of hardy spring bulbs is that they will bloom – just for a year perhaps, but survive they will. Just place the bulbs on top of the soil (no heavy digging necessary, but you may want to loosen the soil a bit) and cover them with 3 to 4 inches of bark or soil. The roots of your bulbs won’t penetrate much into the compacted soil so you can’t expect them to return next year, but for a splash of spring color in any desolate area, laying bulbs on top of the soil, then covering them with a blanket of soil and mulch will offer a great return on your energy investment.

4. Give a Thanksgiving gift to a gardener.

You don’t need to be a gardener to take advantage of bargain bulbs this month. Fill a gift bag with a mix of spring-blooming bulbs and present them to someone who loves to garden or, better yet, a new homeowner. Here in western Washington you can plant bulbs as late as December and they’ll still reward you with spring blooms. Store them outdoors, under cover, where you’ll see them often as a reminder to get planting. Then just dig in – a beautiful spring awaits.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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