Several weeks ago, we encouraged you to buy your spring flowering bulbs while there were plenty available of all varieties and then put them in a cool place when it's time to plant in our area.
Well, it's time.
For best flowering of bulbs — think amaryllis, daffodil, crocus, Easter lily, jonquil — plant in a site that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day and good drainage. If a site tends to stay damp, use raised beds.
In the South, we don't plant bulbs quite as deeply as they do in other parts of the country. A good rule of thumb is to dig a hole twice the length of the bulb. Bulbs do best in soil with a pH between 6 and 7 — our soils are usually sufficient without having to use any amendments to change the soil pH.
Add a teaspoon or so of bone meal to the bottom of the hole and mix slightly. This will provide the bulb with phosphorous during the winter as the roots develop.
Since phosphorous is not very water soluble, it doesn’t move through the soil readily, so the bone meal provides an accessible slow release source of the mineral for your bulbs.
It’s a good idea to draw yourself a map showing where you plant your bulbs and what you planted. Then, when spring rolls around and you start putting in other plants, you know where NOT to dig and also what colors you are expecting from your spring bloomers.
Once you’ve planted your bulbs, water them in to settle the soil but avoid saturating the soil. Remember, bulbs sitting in water are likely to rot.
You may also want to plant over the top with some cool-season annuals like alyssum, violas or pansies.
Exceptions to the November bulb planting would be tulips and hyacinths, which do better when planted in late December or early January. And if you’re reading this and ruing the fact that you forgot to order your bulbs, though your selection may be limited, there is still time to order them and get them in the ground.
Q. My orchids have developed a slimy or cottony sort of white substance on the leaves and stems. I have sprayed with Bonide Eight Insect Control with permethrin several times, but it is not improving. What would you suggest I use? – Sylvia
A. It sounds as if you have mealy bugs, which is common on orchids. Unfortunately, the Bonide Eight has permethrin as an active ingredient, and the pyrethrins have limited effect on mealy bugs. Look for an insecticide with one of the following ingredients: acephate (e.g., orthene), malathion, carbaryl and diazinon. Also, as the life cycle with mealy bugs is fast, you may need to treat every 10 to 14 days for several cycles to eliminate them.
Questions about growing and gardening? Email LSU extension agents Joe Willis and Anna Timmerman at email@example.com.