Beaten By Bulbs

Its still a tad warmer than it ought to be at this time of year. So I was hesitant about planting my 750 spring blooming bulbs. Timing is everything. Too early and they start putting out shoots right away; too late and the ground is frozen solid. In the past, I’ve always planted round about now. I did spot a solitary woolly worm ( caterpillar of the tiger moth) but couldn’t remember what the brown band meant at that time. Only later did I recall that a narrow brown band means a harsh winter. The one I saw bore a band almost half the length of the worm. I’ll make up my mind about this prediction in March 2013. Uncertain of when it might get properly cold, I decided to take the risk and go ahead. Besides, my able bodied albeit reluctant helpers (husband and progeny) were free to assist. Like I just said – timing is everything.

Each year the planting gets harder. A rather harsh reminder of aging body parts. Whilst sorting the somewhat large number of bulbs for the respective areas of the somewhat small garden, I was appalled not only by the greed that had prompted this order but also how insane I’d been to take on such a project. I never learn. Like childbirth, I forget the pain and giving no consideration to budget or aforesaid aging body, I keep repeating this laborious project.

First, I set up my helpers with their stash of bulbs and assigned them their areas in the ‘meadow’. Over the years they know what to do. Still, not wanting to take chances, I  gently remind them that each bulb goes in to a depth three times it’s size (and ignore the teenager rolling her eyes). I treat my aides very kindly because as one well knows, good help is hard to come by. Frankly, I cannot dream of planting the bulbs without their assistance. I am careful however to not mention this as I’m afraid they might demand better work conditions and actual salaries. I myself have the toughest area in which to sink in the bulbs. The two perennial beds in front are a challenge as they are chock full of perennials and bulbs from previous years. The odds of hitting a spot already safekeeping a bulb are very high. I’m understandably nervous about rendering a body blow to a precious allium, crocus, hyacinth, ornithogalum, galanthus, muscari, lily, anemone blanda or camassia. Then there’s the fact that I have to dig each hole while contorting my body unnaturally so as not to step on the ornamental grass, asters, monkshoods and sedums currently in bloom and at the same time avoid the frenzied bees swarming around to siphon nectar from said plants. Its like I’m playing a version of Extreme Twister by myself.

The shipment of bulbs

Apportioned bulbs.

Teenager at work. Warms my heart!

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, I’ve decided that its harder to work with the very small bulbs. Easy enough to make the holes but grasping and placing these bulbous miniatures right side up is not so simple. I think little children should be put to work for this task. Their small hands are perfectly suited. Small bulb planting in exchange for some ice-cream sounds pretty commensurate don’t you think? Plus they get to relieve some pent up energy and breathe all the fresh air their young lungs can take. And in the spring, they can be very proud of the beautiful flowers for which they were responsible. I fantasize about starting a business of hiring out well trained youngsters. I could be the equivalent of a modern day, reformed Fagin. Its productive thoughts like these that keep me plugging away.

Finally, the bulbs are all in. A thick layer of compost to function as both fertilizer and mulch is applied all over the beds. I am done! However, the worst is yet to come in oh, about twelve to fourteen hours. That’s when muscles I forget about all year long decide to express themselves. Bending, the act of sitting, walking up or down an incline or stairs are all excruciatingly painful. To make matters worse, every groan elicits laughter from those home grown helpers of mine. They appear unscathed and annoyingly perky. Maybe I’m treating them much too well.

Parrot tulip and camassia. From last spring.

More bulbs in perennial bed.

The meadow in spring.


Tips for still green tomatoes:
If the weather shows promise of staying warm for a few days longer, remove the leaves shading the unripe fruits. This will allow more sunlight on them and hasten the ripening.
Alternatively, pluck the green tomatoes and wrap each one in newspaper. Store these ‘packages’ in a single layer making sure they’re not touching, in a cool, dry place. The tomatoes will ripen in a few days. Check periodically so they don’t spoil.
Finally, there is always the delicious option of making fried green tomatoes. Yum!


As I’m getting ready to put this post up, we’re battening down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. I don’t mind the end of season garden chores as they needed doing anyway – just not in such a frenzied hurry. But all that could be done is done. With still so many leaves on the trees, I fervently hope the storm is not as bad as the predictions. Lets all keep our fingers crossed and think positive thoughts. Stay safe!

(c) 2012 Shobha Vanchiswar


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