The weather forecast promised us some rain. What happened? The soil outside is still warm (ish) and more importantly dry. Remember that while it is so dry, it’s the perfect time for taking care of bulbs. Tender bulbs such as cannas, dahlias, and gladiolas require gently lifting out of the ground and winter storage. While the cooling ground is still soft, we can plant spring bulbs such as allium, daffodils, surprise lilies, and tulips etc.
In terms of planting spring bulbs, I know it’s tempting to just dig a hole and throw the bulb in, but don’t do it! The soil here in Missouri is so heavy clay and anything we plant benefits from adding organic matter. My favorite is Back to Nature Cotton Burr Compost. It’s weed-free, dark and handsome! I even tried it as a top dressing this year and loved it! If you are tilling your annual bed, this would be the time to add that compost or anything you’ve got handy, to the mix. Throw in a few shredded leaves too. No need to waste. The freezing and thawing over the winter will do the rest.
Speaking of freezing and thawing: I’m sorry to say that bird baths have to be empty unless you have a tickler or water heater out there. You know the power of water to erode things! In order to extend the life of your birdbath, it’s best to dry it off and cover it. If you have a glazed birdbath, you can even store that inside or use it as a plant stand. Next time you come over to see the poinsettias, take a look at the garden baskets. They would look amazing on your new plant stand!
After you have carefully lifted your cannas and so forth, clean them off with a hose or a bucket of warm water. Let those dry off nicely in the garage or shed-somewhere frost free. Cannas need a seven-day drying period. Dahlias need a little longer with a dusting of sulfur. After that you can store them in peat moss, checking occasionally for mold, rot and generally unpleasant conditions that may try to make an appearance.
They say that there’s always an exception to every rule. (At least that’s what I tell my boss!) While you are out there, digging and planting, drying and sulfuring, you might notice neighbors who never dig up their cannas. In spring, they come back even more beautiful than the year before! It’s not because it’s an unjust world, it’s because they planted their cannas in a frost-free zone! Right next to a warm basement on the southwest side of the house, probably up to a foot and a half outside of the wall, there is a frost-free zone. The heat from the basement warms it just a little, just enough to keep those canna bulbs healthy over the winter period.
Now that you have done all that “digging and planting, drying and sulfuring” it’s time for water. If we don’t get any rain, consider getting the hose back out. All the new grass and spring bulbs we planted need a drink! Also, we can save some time and effort by applying lawn winterizer fertilizer after watering. In the springtime, those same neighbors with their cannas will look over at our nice green lawns and wonder how we did it. Don’t tell ’em!