Spring Bulb Care

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As spring turns into summer, many bulb flowers are fading leaving behind greenery and some brown foliage. So how do you care for the spring bloomers now to make sure you will have another pretty showing next year? First, you can remove the flower heads as soon as the flowers fade but don't remove the foliage until it has died and turned brown. If you remove the foliage too soon, it will stop bulb growth since the foliage is gathering food for the bulbs leaving you with less blooms. Some gardeners don't like the untidy foliage tie it back with rubber bands or braid it. But tying or braiding the foliage reduces the leaf area exposed to sunlight, which causes the leaves to manufacture smaller amounts of food. Plus, tying or braiding the foliage is rather time-consuming.  
If you want to give bulbs a boost, the best time to fertilize is when you are planting in the fall. Add in some bone meal to the bottom of the hole before the bulb is placed in the hole. You can also fertilize bulbs after they bloom. Use a 5-10-5 or 6-10-4 fertilizer to bulb beds. Don’t leave fertilizer on leaves to keep them from burning. Control weeds around bulbs to keep them from competing with the bulbs; hand weeding is best.
If you want to move bulbs around in your garden there are several options. Spring-flowering bulbs can be dug up and replanted as soon as the foliage totally dies back and turns brown in late spring/early summer. You can also dig up the bulbs and replant them in the fall, when you would normally plant your bulbs. If you plan to move them in the fall, mark the site when the foliage is present with stakes or plant signs so that the bulbs can be located in October. If you remove bulbs in early summer, once you dig them up, dry them for 2 to 3 weeks. Then place the bulbs in mesh bags and store in a cool (50 to 65 F), dry place, like a basement, until fall planting. Inspect the bulbs several times during the summer and discard any which show signs of decay.
If you have summer blooming bulbs you wish to plant like gladiolus or cannas, those can go in now since the danger of frost has passed. Water the bulbs when you plant them and mulch them to discourage critters from digging them up.
For more bulb and gardening questions call the Linn County Master Gardener Hortline at 319-447-0647. Summer hours for the hortline are 9am to noon and 1pm to 4pm Monday through Thursday. Friday 9am to noon. 

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