23 Aug 2014
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Cover Early-Sprouting Daffodils, Other Bulbs

If the temperatures dip below freezing these next few weeks, cover them up until their normal blooming time arrives.

Cover Early-Sprouting Daffodils, Other Bulbs

If you planted daffodil or tulip bulbs last fall (I planted 110 “Pink Charm” and “Tahiti” daffodil bulbs), it’s a pretty good bet that you’re already seeing a couple inches of plant poking out of the ground. Out my living room window, I see a sea of lime-green spears.

Thanks to a mild winter with unseasonably high temperatures, sprouting bulbs is indeed a common sight, said Ryan Youngblood, owner of Artistic Landscape Associates in Rochester. “We’ve had a few clients call with concern, as they have noticed the new tender growth starting to appear,” added the landscaper, who planted a few thousand daffodil bulbs last fall at various client homes.

Youngblood explained that bulbs blooming are dependent on climate. “They have  an internal clock, if you will, known as 'degree days.’ Each plant has a set amount of 'degree days’ and once the number of degree days are satisfied, the plant will then proceed with its budding and growth process.”

He said they have no way of knowing if it is February or April as long as the degree days have triggered the process to begin.”

Michael Saint, a certified advanced master gardener who speaks on garden topics at places such as in Rochester Hills and in Birmingham, also observed that the extreme temperature changes are definitely causing problems.

“Bulbs stay dormant when it is colder and the ground just hasn’t had its normal freezing temperatures,” he said. “If this weather continues, there is a good chance that the bulbs may begin to produce flowers.”

Saint, who offers classes through the Daily OM and also will present a gardening class March 31 at the in Bloomfield Hills, said if freezing temperatures hit, some plants might be damaged.

But even with freezing temperatures you can almost guarantee an explosion of color from  your bulbs with just a few easy tricks, said Colleen Maiura, a (Rochester Hills) spokeswoman.

“The best thing to do for early sprouting bulbs is to cover them with mulch or pine straw when temperatures reach below freezing at night,” said Maiura. “This will shelter and insulate them from freezing temperatures.”    

“If you do end up covering your plants," added Saint, "be sure to uncover them when their normal blooming time arrives.”

Oh and watch out for rabbits, too, said Lyn Duffy of Four Seasons Garden Center and Custom Landscape in Oak Park, Birmingham and Traverse City.
"Hungry bunnies (are) looking for something green to eat this time of year," she said. 

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