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Fig Tree In Your Garden… It’s Possible

Figs are one of the oldest cultivated crops and were enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. They are a semi-tropical tree that is easy to grow in areas with long, hot summers.

Fig is a deciduous, small tree or bush like, usually growing 8 to 20 feet tall, In cooler zones often more bush like than tree like, with large, lobed, deep green leaves. The first crop of fruit in spring is called the “breba” crop, maturing from buds set on last years growth. The main crop that follows in the fall(this years growth) matures on the new growth made that summer. In cooler parts of the U.S. the breba crop is sometimes lost to late spring frosts.

There are a number of fig varieties adapted to different regions of the country.
Good varieties include:
These are Self-Pollinating and you will not need a second tree for a pollinator tree.
zones 5-10, ‘Chicago Hardy’.
zones 6-11, ‘Brown Turkey’
zones 7-10, ‘Celeste’
This is 3 of the most common varieties sold in nursery’s.

Set out new trees in spring. Set bare root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots.

Container grown(potted) trees, remove the plant from its pot and eliminate circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears.

Young trees need regular watering while they are getting established, and established trees in dry climates will need deep watering at least every week or two. A deep layer of mulch over the root zone will help to conserve moisture.

Figs generally don’t need much pruning to be productive. Shape trees lightly during the dormant season and remove dead, diseased, broken or crossing branches.

In the northern parts of the U.S. figs may benefit from frost protection. In late fall, tie the tree’s branches up to make it more compact, fashion a cage of chicken wire around the tree and fill it with dry straw for insulation. Wrap the outside of the cage with layers of burlap and plastic. Remove the wrappings and straw in spring just before new growth begins and after the danger of hard frost.

Fruits should be completely ripe before they are picked. Ripe figs will be fully colored, starting to bend over at the neck and will be slightly soft. Pick them with the stem still attached. Fresh figs will keep in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

Hint Eat whole. Figs have a mildly sweet taste and can be enjoyed fresh and on their own.
The skin of the fig is edible. You do not need to peel the fig before eating it. Merely twist off the stem and eat the fig skin and all.
If you do not like the texture of the skin, you can peel it off before eating the fig. After twisting off the stem, carefully use your fingers to peel away the skin starting from the exposed top.

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My First Garden – My First Garden Was A Failure

Oklahoma State University said “An area exposed to full or near full sunlight with deep, well-drained, fertile soil is ideal.” The site should also be located near a water supply and, if possible, away from trees and shrubs that compete with the garden for light, water, and nutrients.

Many urban gardeners have a small area with a less than optimal site on which to grow vegetables. It is still possible to grow a vegetable garden by modifying certain cultural practices and types of crops grown.
\Areas with light or thin shade can be used, such as those under young trees, under mature trees with high lacy canopies, or in bright, airy places which receive only one to two hours of direct sun per day.
There are several vegetables which will grow under these conditions, including beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and turnips.
If the site is not well drained or if the soil is thin, the use of raised beds can help with this problem.

Beginners Gardening Tips
In order to have a successful garden, the gardener must
follow a few rules.
• Sample soil and have it tested every three to four years.
• Apply fertilizers in the recommended manner and amount.
• Make use of organic materials such as compost when and where available.
• Use varieties recommended for your USDA zone and area.
• Thin plants when small. Cut do not pull them up, pulling them up may damage the root system to remaining seedlings.
• Use mulches to conserve moisture, control weeds, and reduce fruit rots.
• Avoid excessive walking and working in the garden when foliage and soil are wet.
• Examine the garden often to keep ahead of potential problems.
• Keep the garden free of weeds, insects, and diseases.
• Wash and clean tools and sprayers after use.
• Rotate specific crop family locations each year to avoid insect and disease buildup.
• When possible, harvest vegetables during the cool hours of the day.

First time and beginners common gardening mistakes.
Planting too early. It never fails that somewhere in mid-February a warm front comes through and everyone gets bit by the gardening bug.
Air temperature, is a bad indicator of when to plant. Soil temperature is the key to knowing if a tomato or pepper will survive the cold, not the air temperature.
Most summer crops prefer soil temperatures at least 55-60 F. Closer to 65 F if you are talking about sensitive crops like okra and super sweet corn. Planting too early when soil temperatures are too cool will cause plants to stunt or other disorders such as leaf roll or misshapen fruit. Check soil temperatures with a soil thermometer or through your local county extension office to know when it is safe to plant.

2. Planting when it is too wet. Planting when the soil is too wet is about as bad as planting when the soil is too cold. The soil should only be worked and planted in when there is a slight bit of moisture. Tilling or planting in soils that are too wet will cause poor seed germination and transplant survival. To know if the soils are the proper moisture to plant, grab a handful of soil from the garden and squeeze it tightly together in your fist. Take a finger and push it into the soil ball you just formed. If it breaks apart into multiple pieces, the soil is perfect for working. If your finger pushes into the ball and it doesn’t break apart, it’s too wet to work and may need a few more days to dry out.

3. Not controlling weeds. Weeds can be one of the biggest headaches for both the beginning and experienced gardener. It’s always easier to try and keep the weeds out then to get them out later. Weeds compete for nutrition and moisture, and take up valuable root space from our intended crop. Prevent them through the use of mulches that include pine straw, wheat straw, wood chips, newspaper or some type of landscape fabric. Weeds can also be kept at bay by the use of both pre- and post-emergent herbicides. Make sure you read the label on all chemicals to be sure you can use it on the vegetable type you are growing.

4. Improper fertilization. Nutrition is vitally important to all types of vegetables. Too much or too little nutrition can cause major problems in the garden. Too much fertilizer can cause excessive vegetative growth and few blooms or fruit.
It can also lead to an increase in your weed population. Too little fertilizer will make plants stunted and unable to produce a good crop. Start with a soil sample through your county extension office to determine the nutritional needs as well as the pH of the soil.
In general, most vegetables need fertilization at planting time and then not until they put out their first small fruit. Additional fertilizer may be needed on continuous producing items such as tomatoes, okra, peppers and others.

5. Water is the most essential component of a successful garden. Just like fertilizer, however, too little or too much can cause more harm than good.
Most vegetables need between 1 to 2 inches of water a week to thrive. Frequency depends on the soil type and the amount of supplemental rainfall we receive. It’s far healthier for the plants and much more efficient to irrigate with either soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Overhead watering does work, but can lead to foliar diseases and also wastes a lot of water wetting non-target areas.

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Brussels sprouts – the little Cabbage that can

brussels-sproutsNamed after the city of Brussels, Brussels sprouts were first made popular in Belgium, where they’ve been grown since about 1200AD. Sprouts are buds that grow in the axils of each leaf. They look like tiny cabbages and are considered a type of wild cabbage. The plant itself looks like a small palm tree and the sprouts grow along the trunk like stem.

Brussels sprouts like a sweet or slightly alkaline soil. Soil pH should be at least 6.5. A good amount of organic matter and mulching will help maintain the moisture they need for their intense growth. In colder climates, start seeds indoors and set outside when there’s no threat of a hard frost. Be sure to allow the full time outdoors for required days to harvest.

In warmer climates, fall planting is preferred. You should be able to direct seed in mid-summer for a late fall/winter harvest. You may also be able to squeeze in a second, early spring crop, direct seeding in February and harvesting in May.

Direct seed in warm areas. Otherwise start seed indoors approximately 5-7 weeks before last expected frost. Cover seeds with 1/4 – 1/2 inch of soil and keep moist. Transplant when the seedlings are about 3″ tall. Don’t allow seedlings to become root bound or the plant will remain stunted when transplanted. Space plants about 2 ft. apart with 3 ft. between rows or stagger plants 2 ft. apart in each direction, for a grid.

Fertilize twice a season once when the plants are about 12 inches high and again about a month before harvest is often recommended, but if you have a fertile soil to begin with, it doesn’t seem to be necessary. Brussels Sprouts are prone to the same problems as cabbage and broccoli. The most common pests are Cabbage looper, cabbage worm, cabbage root maggot, aphids, and Harlequin bugs.

Each sprout rows in the leaf axil or joint. They begin maturing from the bottom of the plant upwards. You can start harvesting when the lower sprouts reach the size of large marbles. Just be sure to pick before they get too large and start cracking and turning bitter. Some people prefer to cut, rather than pull the sprouts. Pulling is easy if you remove the leave below the sprout first, then twist and pull the sprout.

A few of the Varieties available are:

* ‘Bubbles’ F1 (85-90 days) Early and easy. Tolerates heat and drought. 2 inch sprouts. Resistant to Powdery Mildew & Rust.

* ‘Jade Cross’ F1 and ‘Jade Cross E’ F1(90 days) Jade Cross was a 1959 All-America Selections Winner. Both are compact plants good for windy locations. Sprout are slightly larger on Jade Cross E. Good disease resistance.

* ‘Long Island Improved’ OP (90 days) High yield. Another small plant that stands up to wind. Freezes well.

* ‘Oliver’ F1 (85 days) Early producer. Easy to pick, 1″ sprouts. Compact, disease resistant plants.

* ‘Royal Marvel’ F1 (85 days) Early and productive. Resistant to bottom rot and tip burn.

* ‘Rubine’ (85 – 95 days) Red Plants. Late maturing and lower yield than green varieties, but good flavor. 1 1/2 inch sprouts. Heirloom.

roasted Brussels sprouts
pan fried-Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts in garlic butter

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Raised Bed Gardening – Not Always A Good Thing

A gadzillion (gadzillion is a word..right?) words and post have been published about the benefits of raised bed gardening and square foot gardens.

In truth raised beds are best suited to cooler and wetter climates than weather conditions found in Americas West and Southwest.

Pros of Raised Bed Gardening:
More control over the location of the garden
Ability to choose the best soil for your particular plants
More efficient draining
Can be easier on backs and knees due to less bending and stooping
Easier to keep out weeds
The soil warms up earlier in a raised bed, so you can plant earlier and extend your growing season
Better ability to keep out ground dwelling pests

Cons of Raised-Bed Gardening:
Can be more expensive to get started
Require careful planning to make sure there is enough room for plants that need to spread out, and to ensure that you can reach the middle to tend the plants
* Because raised beds drain so efficiently, they will also need to be watered more often and my require an irrigation system

In the west and southwest water is a valuable, often scarce commodity. Areas with little natural rain fall, daily temperatures at or above 95 degrees and humidity levels often dropping to 10% or 20%, tap water is an expensive way to water your garden.
Raised beds will often require watering 2 or even 3 times a day to prevent dry stressing plants.

Amending garden soil by digging in or tilling in large amounts of compost and planting directly in the amended soil very well may be a better choice over raised beds. You will over time develop a quality garden soil that holds moisture. Couple this with extensive use of mulch water needs will be greatly reduced and over heated soil temperatures can be moderated.
* This years mulch will be tilled into the soil as an amendment for next years garden.

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Chrysanthemums – “mums” And Pansies For Fall And Winter Color

This is a rework of a 3 year old post I made back in 2013.

Chrysanthemums, or “mums,” are popular perennials. They offer a wide variety of flower colors, from white and cream to dark maroon and burgundy, as well as numerous growth habits from small dwarf plants to giant shrub like Maxi-Mums.
Mums are easy to grow and can provide years of enjoyment if care is taken to select an appropriate variety, plant in a sunny, well drained, location and provide winter protection.

Plant chrysanthemums from seed or small sets in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant large ready to bloom potted plants in late summer and early Fall. Small plants derived from rooted cuttings, divisions, or rooted suckers of old plants can be used. Larger container plants purchased from garden centers may be planted anytime during the spring, summer, or early fall.

Garden chrysanthemums grow in a wide variety of soils but must have excellent drainage conditions. Growth is poor and winterkill likely in poorly drained wet soils. Sunny locations are good sites. Plants in semi-shady locations will be taller, have weaker stems, and bloom later in the fall. Incorporate 2 – 4″ of peat moss, compost, or well-rotted barnyard manure into the soil. If you use only peat moss or do not add organic matter, apply 3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 in the spring. Side dressing plants with a complete fertilizer in early August, especially in years of abundant rainfall or irrigation, also is recommended. If the fertilizer applied in the spring is a slowly available type, such as coated or organic fertilizer, the second application may not be necessary. Space plants 18 – 24″ apart, depending on the mature size of the cultivar.

The University of Minnesota has introduced numerous hardy, attractive garden mums over the last 50 years. Early blooming cultivars assure flowering before frost. Late blooming cultivars may fail to bloom before damaging or killing frosts.

Pinching Mums maintain a bushy compact plant form if pinched or pruned regularly. Although newer cultivars do not require pinching, the traditional method has been to pinch out the tip to induce branching and produce stockier plants. Repeat pinching on side branches when they have grown 6″. Continue pinching until mid-June for early flowering varieties, late June for September flowering varieties, and early July for October varieties. Complete pinching by July 4 to assure flowering prior to frost. Very high summer temperatures may also delay flowering. Most mum flowers are resistant to frost; Centerpiece is especially frost tolerant.

Mums vary widely in cold hardiness. Cultivars listed in the table below have been developed based on years of plant breeding at the University of Minnesota. These plants have been selected for superior flower characteristics, growth habit, and winter hardiness. Most will survive winters in Minnesota. Florist mums, sold throughout the year in supermarkets and greenhouses, may not survive Minnesota winters, and if they do, will probably not flower before hard frosts. Proper location (good drainage and protection from winter winds) and a winter mulch of 4 – 6″ of shredded leaves, hay, straw, or evergreen branches applied as soon as the soil surface freezes is critical to winter survival.

Plant Division Plants can be dug and divided in spring as new growth begins. Stronger shoots are usually on the outside of the clump. Set the growing tip of each division just below ground level. For an attractive display of color, plant at least three shoots in a triangular pattern.

Florist Mums Are attractive blooming potted plants are available through-out the year from florists. After flowers fade, plants can be cut back to 3 or 4 inches and planted in the garden. Florist mums may overwinter, but usually flower too late for USDA Zone 3 and 4.
mum1
mum2
mum3

Pansies
Pansies are another showy Fall, Winter and Spring flowering garden plant worth considering to plant in your Fall garden.

Pansies will bloom Spring through early Summer, with repeat blooming in the Fall. In USDA hardness zones 7 – 9 can grow pansies throughout the winter and there are newer varieties, like the ice pansy, are bred to withstand light snows and may over Winter in zone 6 and with a little protection may even over Winter as far north as zone 5.

Pansies are popular and a recognizable cool weather annuals. Breeding has produced Pansies that are better able to stand up to the cold, but there hasn’t been much luck producing more heat tolerant varieties. Many Pansies are bi-colored, making them striking plants for their small size. Although delicate, they are surprisingly hardy.

Compact, low growers, Pansies are ideal for edging and for squeezing between rock walls and paths, as long as they can be removed in summer. They’re a great choice for early and late season containers and complement spring flowering bulbs, flowering as the bulb foliage begins to fade. If you like the variety of colors but still want a sense of cohesion, select plants from the same series. They’ll be similar in size and markings, regardless of the color.

Pansies are not fussy plants, they will grow best in a loose, rich soil with a slightly acid soil. They flower best in full sun and will get spindly in deep shade. Pansies do not like heat at all and will begin to decline as the days warm up. When buying plants, choose pansies that are stocky, bushy and have plenty of buds. Avoid buying plants with full open blooms. **Growing Note: Pansies can be difficult to start from seed.

You can allow your Pansy plants to remain in your garden and rest during the hottest months, they will probably begin blooming again in the Fall. Shearing the plants back when they start to set seed, will encourage new growth. Dead heading will encourage more blooms.

Occasionally aphids will attack Pansies. Insecticidal soap should remove them. I have found a mixture of ‘Blue Dawn’ dish soap to be cheap and very effective in killing aphids.

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Forcing Bulbs For Winter Color

xmas color I have posted information about forcing bulbs in the past. This is just a reminder that time is running out if you want Christmas flowers.

When ordering or buying bulbs locally check to insure the bulbs have been pre-chilled, other wise they will grow producing foliage but will fail to bloom.

Amaryllis will flower about six weeks after planting, so pot now for Christmas blooms. Plant into pots just larger than the bulb, with 1/2 to 2/3s of the bulb above the soil surface.
After watering thoroughly, allow the soil to become dry. Water more frequently after the flower stalk appears, but never water when the soil is already moist.

Garlic order and plant garlic now and into winter before the ground freezes. The bulbs need cold in order to separate into cloves. Yes I do know Garlic is not a flowering pot plant but it is still time to plant next years Garlic in you garden.

Narcissus Paperwhites and Soleil d’Or can be grown without soil. Plant them in pebble filled containers with the base of the bulbs in contact with water at the bottom of the container. These bulbs don’t need chilling, but will benefit from a cool temperature (50 degrees F.) until the top shoot is a couple of inches long. At that point, you can move the plant into a warm, bright sunny area.

Crocus and Hyacinths can be forced, one bulb per jar or vase, in water alone without any soil. There are special forcing jars and vases for crocus and hyacinths.

Daffodil, Crocus, Hyacinths, Narcissus and Tulip bulbs plant bulbs in a good quality potting soil so the tops are not covered with more than 1/4 – 1/2 inch of soil. Put pots in a cool sunny place about 50 degrees F. works well, until the top shoot is about 2 inches long. Keep the soil slightly damp, not wet. Constantly wet soil may cause your bulbs to rot.
Note For a better effect plant Tulip bulbs with the flat side facing the out side of your pot.

Tulips, Narcissus (Daffodils), Hyacinths And More
Tulips, Daffodils And Hyacinths – Fall Planting
Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service
University of Missouri fact sheet
Iowa State University Horticulture Guide

October Gardening Tips University of Nebraska

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Fall Leaf Color – Double Your Pleasure

After you enjoy the Fall Colors and leafs fall to the ground. It’s time to double up on the benefits of fall leafs.

Leaves are valuable to the gardener? It’s simple. Incorporate them into your garden soil.
Leaves Add nutrients, including phosphorous and potassium.
Increase the soil’s microbial life.
Leafs boost your soils water holding capacity and improve your soils structure.

Add them to vegetable garden. You can incorporate whole or chopped leaves into any cleared out vegetable, berry and shrub beds. They will mostly decompose over the winter, then in spring you can mix in whatever is left. If you want to see leftover leaves in your beds, shred them first.
DIY leaf shredder. Use a 55 gallon(large) garbage can. Fill it three quarters of the way with leaves. Put the string trimmer in, turn it on and move it through the layers of leaves. Caution Be sure to wear eye and ear protection.

Make leaf mold. Leaf mold is simply wet leaves that have decomposed into a rich, black, soil like substance that makes a perfect mulch for plants. Pile the leaves in a spot where they’re out of the way and won’t blow away, cover with wire if necessary. Or make large 3-4 feet high pile(s) of leaves. Wet the leaves as you go so they’ll rot. Turn the pile a few times during the winter will speed up the decomposition of your leaf pile. Add leaves to your compost pile now, they’ll break down over winter.

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Plant Wildflowers Now For Spring Flowers

Spring is a popular time of year to plant wildflowers, however, fall is increasingly becoming the planting season of choice.
The flowers bloom a few weeks earlier the following spring (or summer) once the temperature is just right. All you need to get started is a bare patch of dirt and some wildflower seeds.

Wildflowers can handle tough growing conditions, such as poor soil and adverse weather. With a little preparation you can bring these flowers into your garden and enjoy a vivid show of spring color.
Wildflowers grow in nature without help, they will benefit from a little assistance to get started in your garden.

In in the wild, seeds of wildflowers fall to the ground in autumn and come up the following spring when rain and warm temperatures arrive. The same timeline can also work for planting wildflower seeds in the home garden.

Zones 1 to 6 – This region there is a time table in which seeds should be sown. This occures after temperatures dip below freezing 32 degrees Fahrenheit and before the ground freezes.

Zones 7 to 11 – In these zones, wildflower seeds can be sown about anytime between September and December.

Wildflowers that grow in your area will be the easiest to grow, they are adapted to the soil and climate conditions where you live.
Check with your local cooperative extension office or Master Gardener program for a list of wildflowers that do well where you live.
Visit WildflowerInformation.org for a list of wildflowers that grow well in your region.
In general, wildflowers do best in areas that receive at least six hours of sun. Wildflower gardens do best when provided with supplemental water during long dry periods.

To plant wildflowers, spread seeds by lightly throwing them with your hands over the prepared area. However, to make it easier to evenly spread seeds, mix them with sand (one part seeds to 10 parts sand) so you can see where you have spread them.
Lightly rake the seeds into the soil, roll the area or simply walk over the newly seeded area, to help press them into the soil, where they will receive the sun they need to germinate. It’s important to keep the seeds within the top quarter inch (1/4) inch of soil, or they may not germinate.

Hint Birds may become a problem in your newly seeded area, you can add temporary protection. Cover the area with bird netting suspended on wood stakes about 1 to 2 feet tall.

When flowers turn brown you may be tempted to pull them out, stop don’t do that. They need to dry completely so that they will drop new seeds onto the ground for the following year’s wildflower garden. After your wildflowers have dried and the seeds have had a chance to fall to the ground, you can cut them down with a lawn mower or string trimmer and rake away the old plants. Better yet leave them to act as a ground cover providing protection from harsh weather and birds.

I don’t work for eBay, but, they are a good source for many common wildflower seeds.

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California New Law – Farting Cows Are Violating Pollution Laws

California Gov. Jerry Brown kept up his assault on farming and business has pushed through a law to reduce cow fart emissions from dairy farms.

Brown’s approval of Senate Bill 1383 goes after short-lived climate pollutants, which include methane, cow farts!

Brown said “these gases don’t linger in the atmosphere, they still make people sick and hasten global warming. We’re protecting people’s lungs and their health.”

Senate Bill 1383 requires dairy farmers have to cut methane emissions to
40 percent below 2013
levels by 2030.

California Air Resources Board can also now regulate bovine flatulence, as long as there are practical ways to reduce the cows’ belching and breaking wind.

Composting also has to go up by 50 percent within four years to curb methane from organic waste.
The state’s head of the National Federation of Independent Business rails against the “arbitrary” limits and says they’re a “direct assault on California’s dairy industry,”

Fall Color = Planting Time For Spring Flowering Bulbs

Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50 deg F. At any rate you should plant bulbs at least six weeks before the ground freezes.

You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden as long as the soil is well drained. Bulbs don’t like wet feet. So, avoid areas where water collects, such as the bottom of hills. Bulbs like sun and in many areas the spring garden can be very sunny, since the leaves on the trees are not out yet. So keep in mind when planting in the fall that you can plant in many places for spring blooms.

Till your soil deeply so it’s loose and workable. If it’s not an established garden bed, chances are the soil benefit from the addition of some organic matter such as compost or peat moss.

Loosen soil in your planting bed to a depth of at least 8 inches, deeper is better. Remove weeds, rocks or other debris. You can mix in compost, other organic matter or slow releasing fertilizer if your soil lacks nutrients.

Planting bulbs, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. As a general rule, plant big bulbs about 8″ deep and small bulbs about 5″ deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up or the roots down. It’s easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip, it’s tougher with a crocus. If you can’t figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don’t get it right, the flower bulb will still find its way.

After your bulbs are planted, back fill the hole with soil, lightly compress the soil but do not pack it. Water well to stimulate root growth. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low winter precipitation.

bulb-planting-chart

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