• Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
• Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from hard-neck, soft-neck or Elephant garlic varieties now available.
• Plant cover crops in the garden where summer plants have finished. Fava beans and crimson clover will grow through the winter and improve your soil for spring planting.
• Choose shade trees for fall color now and plant them while the soil is still warm.
• Wildflower seed broadcast with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.
Paint your garden with tulips
There’s magic in tulips. Their sleek brown bulbs hide a rainbow of beautiful flowers which are yours for the planting. Whether it’s bright reds and yellows that you love, or pretty pastel pinks and purples, you can design a palette of their gorgeous colors by planting the bulbs this fall.
Tulips require three or four months of cold during the winter before they will bloom. In Willits, this is no problem: just plant the bulbs in the fall and they will be ready to bloom next April and May. In milder climates, and to force into bloom indoors, you have to refrigerate them for 14 to 17 weeks before they will be ready to bloom.
Plant a succession of tulip varieties and colors for six weeks of spring flowers. Begin with Fosteriana tulips, commonly known as Emperor tulips. They have large, velvety flowers on 16-inch stems. Brighten your border with ‘White Emperor,’ a perfect white tulip.
Single Early tulips come in bright colors with egg-shaped blooms. ‘Yokahama’ has golden, sunshine-yellow petals that bloom over a long season.
Next come the Triumph tulips with their traditional tulip shape and strong stems. The tall and graceful ‘Blue Beauty’ is a purple/pink bicolor with a traditional tulip flower shape. ‘Negrita’ has dark burgundy, upright flower cups on 18-inch stems and ‘Orange Cassini’ has delicate red-orange blooms that give off a gentle fragrance.
Darwin Hybrids flower in mid-season with long-lasting flowers on strong stems that make them perfect for bedding and for cutting. Look for the bright ‘Oxford,’ with scarlet red flowers blushed with purple, ‘Golden Apeldoorn,’ which has a primrose yellow exterior and a golden yellow inside, and ‘Van Eijk,’ with vibrant, dark pink blooms.
End the season with the Double Late tulip, ‘Upstar.’ With its soft, rose pink, ruffled, peony-like flowers, it will bring an elegant close to the tulip season.
Tulips need sunshine when they are in bloom. If they are in a shady area, they will lean toward the light on elongated stems. It’s fine to plant bulbs under deciduous trees if the trees won’t leaf out until after the blooming season ends.
Plant tulip bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep, putting some bone meal at the bottom of the hole. As soon as the flowers have faded, cut them off so that the bulb will store up energy for next season rather that putting that energy into producing a seed pod. Leave the foliage and stems until they die down naturally.
Tulips can easily be grown in containers. Use potting soil and add bone meal or bulb fertilizer. Set the bulbs close together and barely cover them with soil. Set the containers in a cool place out of direct sunshine. Sun will warm the soil and make the bulbs bloom before they have developed an adequate root system. Keep them in a cool place for 3 or 4 months then, when the shoots appear, move pots to a place with light shade. When buds appear, move pots where you can enjoy their beautiful blooms to the fullest.
Fall is the time to plant tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs for a splendid show next spring.