HELEN LANG: Time to talk about bulbs

If you have summer flowering bulbs you dug up last fall, you can now take them out and examine them for signs of rot

Sometime between three and four a.m. I was awakened by an unusual sound. I’d heard it before but its been so long that for a minute I couldn’t identify it.

It was rain on the roof above my head. Normally rain at this time of year is greeted with groans but we have had such a long period of drought this spring it sounded awfully good to me and you could almost hear the earth giving a great sigh if relief. It could have been the wind, I suppose.

Now I hope we aren’t going to have to pay for the lack of moisture with weeks of dull days with periods of heavy rain. Looking out the window right now it doesn’t look too good. Not only is it raining but it’s foggy as well but my outdoor thermometer says it is 15 degrees C. So it’s not all that bad. We always seem to complain about the weather don’t we?

We should start talking about bulbs that we can plant in the spring for bloom during the summer. It will be a while before we can actually plant them but this would be a good time to buy any you desire before they get picked over. Most garden centres will advertise that they are indeed in, so keep the car keys handy for a quick trip.

If you have summer flowering bulbs you dug up last fall, you could take them out and examine them for signs of rot. Any soft ones are probably not going to be worth keeping but if you’re an optimist, save them, and put them in the soil somewhere where, if they are truly dead, their absence won’t be noticed.

Some bulbs, such as begonias, may be divided with a sharp knife. Please sprout them first so that you know where they can be cut. I used to lay the mother bulb on wet peat moss over heat, if possible. This sprouting business may take 10 days or a little more, so try to be patient.

I had a garden heating cable and set some bulbs just above it. A heating pad, just  barely warm, with  a sheet of plastic over the heating pad to keep it dry would work.

It would be wise to have bulb dust on hand. Put some in a plastic bag and shake the bulb in it before putting it (the bulb) in the water (a precautionary measure). When you divide the bulb, make sure there is at least one fresh sprout on each section. Some begonia bulbs can be divided into three, but only if each piece has a sprout and isn’t so small that it has no resources to call upon when things get too wet, too dry or too cold.


Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.