After such a long hard winter, I have really been looking forward to spring and summer. The official "past all danger of frost" date is May 15th (where I live), but this year we were lucky enough to get a late freeze. That's right, not just a frost, an all out freeze on May 15th. So I was hesitant to start really working on my garden this year. Last week I simply couldn't take it anymore. The forecast looked great for the foreseeable future, so I went for it.
Now I have to say, I never intended to make a post out of this. It really hadn't crossed my mind that anyone else might consider this to be interesting or helpful, but when a friend turned up while I was working in the garden, and proclaimed this particular idea to be "genius", I decided I should share.
I don't know about you, but I hate summer bulbs. I hate that I can't simply leave them out in the dirt year round. I hate digging around randomly, terrified that I may accidentally slice into one of my precious bulbs, and I hate trying to make sure that I have found all of the little tiny baby bulbs that grew during the summer.
...but I love them! Gladiolus are gorgeous, and elephant ears are striking. There are so many beautiful summer flowering bulbs to choose from. So after a few years of protesting, I finally gave in decided to plant a few of them, but I was determined to try something to eliminate the parts I couldn't stand.
Behold, the gallon bucket!
You know those ugly containers that store bought plants often come in? Years ago Patrick and I went online and bought a big batch of these. It is amazing how many things they come in handy for... hauling dirt when a wheelbarrow is overkill, holding the weeds I just pulled out of the garden, and now containing bulbs that will need to be dug up again in a few months.
It's pretty simple really, but here is what you will need to do.
First, cut larger holes into the bottom of the bucket. You need to make sure there is room for the roots to grow beyond the confines of the container and you will also want better drainage. Making some good size holes in the bottom will take care of both concerns.
This is about how it should look.
Now it's time to dig your hole. You are going to want to bury the whole bucket so obviously you will want a hole about the same size. As you are digging go ahead and use that same dirt to fill up the container.
When you have the right amount of dirt in the bucket, place the bulbs according to package directions and then go back to digging out your hole and filling up the bulb container.
You will have to actually place your bucket into the hole a few times in order to check the fit. The easiest way to do this is to use another one of the same size. As I mentioned earlier, these things are great to carry around when weeding so I always have an extra with me.
Once your bulb container fits completely into the hole (you want the rim pretty much flush with the soil level), it's time to fill it in. You need to make sure the container is full and tamped down a bit, but also be sure to push dirt into the area around the outside of the container.
When you have gotten everything in place you really won't be able to tell where your container is buried unless you really look closely. Now that you are done, you will be leaving this alone until the end of the season, so by then your memory may be a bit fuzzy. I use a garden marker to help me remember where to dig in the fall.
(Please ignore the fact that we haven't actually gotten around to spreading mulch yet this year)
Now I don't have any more pictures of the process, but I am pretty sure you can figure out what happens next. You sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful plants.
Then in the fall, when it is time to give up, and admit defeat to Mother Nature, you simply go find your markers and use a big ole' shovel to dig the whole bucket out of the ground. That's it. No random digging, no fear of slicing into them, no wondering if you managed to find them all.
**Update 11/01/14- Fall Follow Up
Much to my dismay, summer has come and gone, and since we had snow yesterday for Halloween, I must admit that the time has come to dig up my non-hardy bulbs.
Begin by locating the plant marker and corresponding plant. Brush away a layer of dirt/mulch etc until you locate the edge of your bucket.
Place the edge of your spade just outside the bucket edge.
Push the spade into the ground, making sure to push straight down parallel to the edge of the bucket.
Pull back on the spade's handle and you will slowly lift the bucket out of the hole. Once you have lifted it all the way out, I usually rest one foot on the spade handle to hold it down (and therefore hold the bucket up) and then grab the edges of the bucket to pick it up and set it next to the hole.
With some plants you can simply pull on the stem of the plant to retrieve the bulbs.
Though sometimes you will end up just pulling the stem right out of the bulb instead. From here you can just basically sift the soil through your hand while using it to fill the hole back in.
And every now and then you will manage to catch a surprise baby bulb :-)
I had 8 buckets buried this year and it took me just under an hour to dig them all up and retrieve all of the bulbs.
As for what to do with the bulbs, I am not going to claim to know what I am talking about. Each type of bulb requires different care. For instructions on how to best overwinter your bulbs see the package instructions or check this link. http://gardening.about.com/od/floweringbulbs/a/StoringBulbs.htm
Good Luck and Happy Gardening!