Snap up spring-blooming bulbs at fall’s bargain prices

Beautiful bulbs are available at garden centers and nurseries.

The start of September is when you should see spring-blooming bulbs popping up for sale at garden centers and nurseries. Make this the year you not only buy those beautiful bulbs but get them into the ground early as well.

Got mice, voles, deer or moles? Go with the various daffodils which are unappealing to most wildlife. The dwarf daffodils are not only easier to plant but return more reliably as well. Good drainage is the key to blooming success in Western Washington with our wet winters. If you have clay soil or other drainage issues plant your bulbs in pots. If you sink the pots into the ground you not only protect them from mice but it will be easy to pull the pot from the ground and plant summer annuals once the spring bloomers are past their prime.

This is also a good week to plant seedlings of kale, cabbage and other cool-season crops for a winter harvest.

Q. I grew some cucumbers this summer. They seem to be thick near the stem then skinny then thicker again near the tip. Do you know why? They did taste good. P.P., Renton

A. I am going to blame your shapely cukes on the hot, dry summer. If the plants dried out a bit on one of our really hot days this would cause a cucumber to grow a waistline for a few days as it matures. Then with cooler weather or more water, the cuke will fill out again leaving a curvaceous body behind. Funny looking produce is still tasty and healthy and is one of the side benefits of growing your own.

Q. My iris have not been blooming well and you told me at one of your talks that they most likely need to be divided. OK, I forgot when and how I should do this. Thanks. A.M., Auburn

A. Dig in and uproot your iris plants now or anytime in the next month or two. Fall is the season to renew the vigor of all varieties of iris. Once you uproot the entire clump use a sharp knife to cut away the outer rhizomes that are light and firm and toss out the inner, older parts of the iris that are ready to retire. Replant the new divisions into soil that has been improved with some compost and loosened well so it drains freely. Set the thick and knobby roots just below the surface of the soil. You can snip off the long leaves, leaving just a bit of foliage so you will know where you planted. You’ll see beautiful dividends from your autumn makeover in the spring. One more tip – iris love the sun but do this surgery and transplant in the evening or on a cloudy day. Bare roots sunburn easily.

Q. I see webs at the ends of some branches in my apple trees. I assume these are tent caterpillars as I also have seen the yellow and orange caterpillars nearby. How should I get rid of them? L.B., Enumclaw

A. Use a tall pole pruner to remove branches with webs and place them inside plastic garbage bags and send them out with the trash. The time to collect the webs is in the evening after the hairy caterpillars have returned to their nests for the night. You can also control caterpillars with Bt, a bacteria that kills the larvae without harming birds and other wildlife. Tent caterpillars come and go with population eruptions every few years but in most cases they look worse than the actual damage they do.

• • •

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, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column

owned by Marianne Binetti.

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