Is this a phrase you’ve screamed while looking out at your garden this winter? (And I use the term “winter” loosely…) Whether it be a result of La Nina as some meteorologists are saying or just a whacky winter, the warm temperatures are receiving mixed reviews. Some of us are missing the fresh white blanket of snow we usually have at this time of the year. Some are upset they haven’t been out skiing much. While others are thrilled that they can be taking their morning runs while only wearing one layer of clothing. Whichever side of the debate you land on, we can all agree that this winter really hasn’t been. In fact just a few weeks ago, Discovery News posted an article that at the time of their post, only 19% of the United States was under snow cover when the average at this time of year typically falls around the 50% range.
As a result of these warm temperatures, my inbox has been flooded with questions from panicked gardeners wondering what to do with their bulbs which are beginning to sprout. The answer to that question could be viewed as reassuring to the relaxed gardener or unnerving to the worrisome one. The truth is, there’s not much you can do but wait. Some people feel that covering the sprouts with a blanket, straw, or mulch will help. This would be true if say we were in the middle of spring and we were just happening to be experiencing a night or two of frost. But the truth is, winter will most likely come back yet this year (sorry to those of you hoping to slide right into spring). When that happens, the foliage is going to brown and dieback. Covering them at this point in the season will only insulate the warmth into the ground and cause the plants to sprout even MORE making it even harder from them to bounce back from this traumatic experience later. But have no fear! As long as the plants do not begin to produce flower buds, they should show no ill-affects come springtime.
If flower buds do begin to appear, you have one of two options: #1) Let them run their course. You may see less flowers this spring, or, if you’re extremely optimistic, perhaps we won’t get winter this year and the bulb will be allowed to continuing growing and blooming just like normal (all be it a few months too early). Or, #2) You could gently try to dig up the bulb while paying special attention to leave as many roots intact as possible and replant them in a pot or other container that can be brought indoors so that you can enjoy the blooms in the warmth of your own home. Obviously, the number of bulbs affected by this will probably determine which option you choose.
So there you have it: the short answer to one of the most popular question with gardeners today. I actually did quite an extensive blog post about this same topic a couple years back which may help if you would like to read more about it or have any questions that weren’t answered above. You can read it here. In the next week or so, I’ll also be posting another blog about what other affects this unseasonably warm winter is going to have on our spring and summer gardens…the information might surprise you!
With hands in the dirt and head in the clouds,
P.S. Don’t forget to get your recipes in for the 2012 Homegrown Recipe Contest! The deadline is fast-approaching in just a little over 2 weeks!