Saturday, May 15, 2021
May 15, 2021

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Gardening With Allen: When to cut back bulb leaves


Can I cut the leaves off my daffodils and tulips now? Will that damage my bulbs? I want to move some of my bulbs. When can I do that? Is it all right to plant annual flowers where my leftover bulb leaves are?

Leftover leaves of spring flowering bulbs can become quite straggly until they finally turn brown. However, those leaves are producing food and sending it down to produce new bulbs for next year. You do not need to leave them until they turn completely brown. Some gardeners bend clusters of leaves and place a rubber band around them. I usually cut bulb leaves back to about one half when the tips of the leaves turn brown. Then I remove the leaves when they turn yellow or brown.

You can also move bulbs as soon as the leaf tips turn brown. If you wait until the leaves are completely gone it will be difficult to locate them.

I dig my daffodils about every three years and space bulbs about 4 to 6 inches. Then I replant the extra bulbs in a different location or give some of them to my friends. Bulbs can be immediately replanted in the same or a different location. Or they can be stored for later planting. They should be stored in a dry, cool, dark place. They can be replanted any time from now until late fall.

Plant flowers between bulbs

I have planted annual flowers such as marigolds, verbena, petunia and alyssum between my bulbs for years. I have also planted short ground covers over bulbs. Ajuga, Lamium and thyme are good choices to plant over or between bulbs. I have also planted perennial flowers between bulbs or vice versa. Since the bulbs become dormant shortly after they bloom, there is very limited competition between them and other flowers.

Keep ahead of weeds

We hardly get our flowers and vegetables planted until weeds start to pop up everywhere. Weeds are much easier to control when they are small. One chop with a hoe will remove a dozen small weeds. It takes more time to remove a single large weed later.

My favorite time to weed is early in the morning before work or other daily activities. It is cool and quiet and I can observe the growth and development of my flowers and vegetables. I can weed my whole yard in five or six 15-minute sessions. That is much more enjoyable than one three-hour session on a hot Saturday afternoon.

If I need to weed in the afternoon, I pick shady areas under trees or on the north and east sides of the house or fence. I try to do the hotter south and west sides in the morning.

I apply another 1- to 2-inch layer of bark dust as soon as possible after June weeding.

This shades the ground. Since most weed seeds need light to germinate, the bark dust prevents about 90 percent of new weed growth.