Q: I always tire of winter long before spring comes. I was looking at the selections of spring bulbs in a catalog and thinking I might plant some crocuses throughout my lawn. Do they require different care to get them to come back every year?
A: My mother and many others have crocuses and other bulbs planted in their lawns. Most people spread the bulbs out for a natural look. They can also be placed in groups or circles, or in the shape of a heart, logo or other shape for more visual impact.
I decided on a much less subtle approach. I used 950 Hocus Crocus bulbs from the Colorblends website to spell the word "spring" in 5-foot-tall letters.
Crocuses work best for plant zones 3 through 8. You can also use snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) for very early white flowers and grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) for late-blooming blue flowers. Dwarf Jonquil will work in zones 9 and 10, although Jonquils work better in beds rather than lawns because the leaves are too tall to look good. Crocuses work because they are short and they bloom very early. We want the early bloom for our sanity, but the key is the short leaves. If you want the bulbs to come back next year, you shouldn't mow the grass for at least 6 weeks after the flowers bloom. If you mow them off shortly after they bloom, they won't return. If left in place, the bulbs will become naturalized and multiply. Note that digging them up to replant will be much more difficult in a lawn than a flowerbed.
You will need a lot of bulbs for this project. To create visual impact when spread across the lawn, think about planting at least two or three bulbs in every square foot. If you decide to plant them in groups, they need to be planted 2 to 3 inches apart and in several rows. Plan on planting at least 30 at a time.
In either case, you can one single color or a mix. Bulk mail-order purchases may be the cheapest way to go, but many local stores are willing to order in bulk, too.
The package will tell you how deep each kind of bulb should be planted. They are planted with the pointy side up. To place the bulbs in individual holes for a scattered planting, you can use a bulb-planting drill bit on your power drill. For group plantings, though, I find it easier to cut the sod out, place it on a tarp next to the hole, place the bulbs in the hole and put the sod back into place. Make sure to check with your local utilities company before digging or drilling.
Many lawns are best fertilized in the fall. But don't fertilize in the first year of planting bulbs, as too much nitrogen in the soil may promote too many leaves and not enough flowers. A fall fertilizer that's low in nitrogen is OK.
Once you've planted, water them, sit back, and wait until spring.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.