As a new graduate, who just recently moved out of her parent’s house, I’ve only started digging into gardening as a hobby. Last summer, I tried my hand at some flower planters that you can read about here. This post will be all about my first and possibly disastrous attempt at planting spring bulbs, what I’ve learned and what I’ll try next time!
Admiring some beautiful gardens in Vietnam
If you’re like me, the site of colourful spring flowers brings excitement and a feeling of good things to come after a bleak winter. My mum always planted spring bulbs at my family home, so when I moved out, I couldn’t wait to embrace this tradition. However, I knew almost nothing about spring bulbs…
While out shopping last fall, I became a little overzealous and bought about 120 bulbs from Costco, for the two small gardens where I live. Then, I naturally got busy and totally forgot to plant them until the last week of October- which was a little later than the recommended 6 weeks before the first ground-freezing frost. So I’m just hoping that my bulbs decide to come up!
As I nervously await the hopeful arrival of my spring flowers, I’ve committed to do some research for myself and anyone else interested!
Step 1: Choosing your bulbs
As I mentioned before, I might have jumped the gun and bought a ton of bulbs from Costco before researching the different varieties, local growing conditions, or even how to plant them. I stereo-typically bought bags of bulbs with the prettiest pictures on the front. Evidently, experienced gardeners suggest buying bulbs from reputable nurseries (I’m guessing where I buy my bulk quantities of meat and hot sauce isn’t considered reputable). It’s recommended to buy from nurseries vs. big box stores since the staff at local nurseries tend to be much more knowledgeable about the plants, local growing conditions, and generally take better care of the plants.
In other findings, I’ve learned there are many different types of spring bulbs that require different care and bloom in the early, mid or late spring. If you desire an elaborate spring garden, you could even plant a variety of bulbs that will continuously flower all spring. Here is what else I’ve learned!
Early Spring Bloomers:
Winter Aconite, Snowdrops, Fragrant Puschkinia, Glory of the Snow, Tiny Reticulata
Tulips and Daffodils
Step 2: Planting Bulbs
Spring bulbs should be planted in well-drained soil about 6 weeks before the hard, ground-freezing frost. This will allow the bulbs to establish a root system; if the ground is too wet there is a chance the bulbs will rot.
On the back of the bulb packaging it will usually indicate proper depth and spacing for the specific bulbs. I purchased a “Perfect Pairings” set with Crocus and Daffodils, as well as a package of “Curb Appeal” Tulips. On the back of the package it had exact depths and spacing for each type of bulb, and being the nerd I am, I used a ruler for the first couple of bulbs I planted and would definitely recommend it for any beginner.
When planting bulbs, my research indicates that they should be planted in clusters and never in rows, as it will increase the instability of the flowers and they may fall over. I didn’t know this and planted all 120 bulbs in neat, single file rows- so I may end up with a garden of horizontal flowers…
Once the bulbs are planted, it is recommended to fertilize the soil in the planting area with bulb booster, bone meal, or super phosphate.
Squirrels may love your bulbs more than you, and they’ve been known to remove carefully arranged groups or even to re-arrange your bulbs! Tamping down the soil after planting helps to protect your hard work by concealing the smell of the bulbs. To protect your bulbs from marauding animals, try sprinkling blood meal or critter-ridder over the bulbs before covering with soil. If you’re really protective of your bulbs, some gardeners cover the bulbs, once in the hole, with chicken wire to ward off pesky critters.
Step 3: Caring for your Spring Bulbs
Good news, spring bulbs are mostly maintenance free! After the bulbs have bloomed you may want to dead head them, but leave the stems and leaves standing. The foliage needs to die back naturally, allowing the sun to convert oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into food that is stored in the bulb for next year. Spring bulbs should flourish and come back for years to come if they are planted in well-drained soil, allowed plenty of sunlight, and you’re able to stave off hungry squirrels!
Your spring bulbs didn’t bloom?
Sometimes bulbs don’t come up at all, or they might come up but won’t blossom. Here are some common reasons why:
- Squirrels or voles have made a nice meal out of them
- They were too small: Smaller bulbs need to reach a certain size before flowering
- Too much or not enough fertilizer: Always fertilize flowers with a low nitrogen fertilizer; nitrogen encourages the growth of leaves which can be at the expense of flowers.
- Not enough sun: Bulbs need about 6-8hr a day of direct sunlight
- Poor drainage: Excessive wet soil causes the bulbs to rot
- Competition for nutrients: In an area with fast growing plants, or evergreens, it can cause crowding or shading that will reduce the nutrients for bulbs. The most compatible plant for spring bulbs are Hostas.
So, now that I can pinpoint everything I did wrong while planting my own spring bulbs, hopefully I’ve educated and inspired you to try your own hand at it!
While I sit back and await my spring blooms, I’ve started to think forward to next fall. I think I’ll try my luck with a layered bulb container (pictured above), or maybe even try to bring some spring colour inside during the winter months, by forcing bulbs in a vase (pictured below).
FUN FACT: To force bulbs in a vase, they’re required to be stored for 12-15 weeks in a fridge or other cold place, to receive enough ‘cold-sleepy’ time (yes, that’s really what it’s called). However, the bulbs cannot be kept near apples, as they expel gases that prevent the bulbs from blooming! Who knew apples were so perilous..
– Jenna Monk
MPS Property Services is very pleased to announce that we have successfully completed the final phase of our Stage 2 ISO 9001 / SN 9001 audit; with our recent, fully compliant “in-event” Inspection Audit.
This final Stage 2 verification of our ISO processes and procedures involved bringing in a third party auditor, from Smithers Quality Assessments, during an actual snow event, to inspect, assess and evaluate our performance. You can read about the first part of our Stage 2 audit here.
As part of the audit, a random selection of properties, based on a percentage of the total number of sites that we service, were chosen. The applicable client contracts and site maps were then examined to confirm that all necessary and correct information was present and being communicated to our workers in the field. The auditor was then taken out into the field to perform site inspections to confirm that the work being performed matched or exceeded the standards and specifications outlined contractually and by the site maps.
Finally, the auditor examined both “in-event” and “post-event” documentation and site visit logs in order to assess if ISO standards were being met for this process. At the end of this day long audit, we were all thrilled to receive the news that the audit was successful, without any non-conformities being found, resulting in our three year ISO Certification being confirmed.
The Benefits of being ISO Certified:
MPS has chosen to become ISO Certified in order to improve our Quality Management systems and customer service satisfaction. By making continual improvements to our internal sales, training and operations processes, we hope to keep our customers happy by making consistent gains in our quality of work.We look forward to working hard towards maintaining our ISO 9001 / SN 9001 Certification, improving our internal systems, and continuing to focus on client satisfaction as we go forth towards another season.
– Ken Jorgenson
While the glamour & glory of spring prognostications have always gone to famous groundhogs such as Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and Punxsutawney Phil, these rodents of questionable reliability and dubious character have nothing on MPS’ own Seer of Spring, the ursine-like Ken Jorgenson; whose “Ken-hog” day predictions bring shouts of joy throughout the entire company.
Never fooled by the frequent onset of some early and wonderful faux-spring weather, the “Ken-hog” focuses instead on reams of environmental statistics, signs of nature, over 20 years of experience, and an innate ability to see beyond mere shadows, in order to confidently declare the end of operational snow events for yet another winter season!
Correctly predicting last winter that April would bring more snow than November and December combined, this year’s prophecy identifies March 20th as the true ”last day of winter” for 2017.
So it has been predicted, and so it shall be! And with a stunning track record, marginally better than “pure chance”, to fall back on, you may all rest assured that it is finally time to put away the snowshoes and skis for another year, and start thinking about patio season.
November is a time for remembrance, so it’s fitting that this past week MPS was honoured to take part in a tree planting ceremony for the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute. The HOH Tribute is a foundation started by Mark Cullen, possibly Canada’s best known gardener. The foundation’s goal is to plant 117,000 trees to honour each of the Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives fighting for Canada since confederation. When we were contacted by Landscape Ontario to be a part of this project, we happily said yes. Our job was to supply the tree and labour for the ceremony. The tree was planted on the Centennial College Progress Campus, which is located adjacent to the Highway of Heroes. We look forward to seeing the many new trees planted along the Highway of Heroes corridor from Trent to Toronto. Click here to find out how you can get involved in this amazing organization.
People always ask if this is a slow time of year for us. Seeing as our grounds maintenance and landscaping crews are winding down, and the snow is months away, this is a reasonable expectation. But, I have to laugh at this thought, because honestly, the fall is probably our busiest time of year!
While most summer leisure activities are dwindling, our crews are out working hard to make sure we close down all of our jobs, and complete fall cleanups before winter sets in. And that’s the great unknown – when will winter set in? While we’re trying to finish our outdoor work, we’re also trying to get ready for the first snowfall. This overlap of seasons, keeps our management staff on their toes. We can’t predict when winter will begin or what weather conditions it will bring, but we do know that we have to be ready!
There is a lot that goes in to getting ready for winter. We first have to know who our customers are – this involves renewing existing contracts, as well as estimating and selling new contracts. This can be challenging as well, as some customers don’t recognize the lead up time required to get ready, and therefore leave their purchasing decisions to the last minute! We don’t tend to sign may contracts after October for this reason (note: Hire your winter contractor early!). The lead up
to winter also requires hiring a large amount of staff to fill positions such as salt truck operators, equipment operators, shovelers, and supervisors. MPS employs 170-200 employees during the winter months and we service properties across the northern GTA area.
In terms of physically preparing, it requires all hands on deck! We begin by engineering site-maps so that all of our operators understand how to plow/shovel/salt the site to achieve customer requirements. We then hold extensive training sessions so our snow personnel (new and existing) are ready for the winter, and their roles. They need to be familiar with sites, equipment and material requirements long before the first snowflake flies. Salt bins need to be placed on site and stocked with material, as well some sites need to be staked. We don’t do a lot of staking, because a high percentage tend to be stolen by people for their own driveways. A half-staked lot is more dangerous than a lot that has no stakes, as an equipment operator may assume all curbs are marked, and can hit one at high speed. This is bad for the curb, the machine and especially the operator. We prefer operators to move slowly to find curbs and initially create snowbanks.
Finally, getting equipment ready is a year round endeavour. Our mechanical team begins by “summerizing” all equipment in the spring. De-salting, cleaning and undercoating is performed on all equipment. Repairs and routine maintenance is performed over the summer months, and new equipment is purchased in anticipation of winter sales. In the past we have rented farm space north of Uxbridge to clear up room in our previously tiny yard during the warmer months. However, this past spring we took over the other side of our building and expanded our yard almost 10 fold. This has allowed us to keep all of our large winter equipment on site year round, eliminating the time it took to transport the equipment back and forth during seasonal change-ups. Lastly, our “dual use” equipment (dump-trucks that we put salters on, or trucks that plow) needs to be transitioned during the fall. With over 100 large pieces of equipment, and dozens of small machines, this is no small feat. And all of this needs to be done by an unpredictable deadline, decided by mother nature herself. We don’t know when winter will begin, we just know we have to be ready! Jim Monk | President