September 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Gardening

Time to get next spring's crocus bulbs planted

Plant crocuses in the lawn in groupings for maximum effect. (Stock Xchange)

If you pop out into the garden early in the morning, you may find the fragrance of fall is already in the air. And that brings to mind the thoughts of fall chores, such as planting spring flowering bulbs.

Next year, I will be welcoming spring in new digs, and I donít want to miss the emergence of those little crocuses that warm my heart just as the snow disappears.

Crocus bulbs are tiny little things, about the size of a chickpea, so they are a snap to plant. Even so, gardening books often recommend planting them by the hundreds, which seems like a daunting task.

This fall, about six to eight weeks before the soil freezes, Iím going to plant some in the grass in front of the porch of my new condo. Crocus need part to full sun, so planting them in turf makes perfect sense. While directions often tell you to peel back the sod and then plant, I have found itís not necessary, and I donít want to panic my new neighbors. So I will use a narrow bladed tool, such my dandy Radius Garden Hand Weeder (radiusgar≠den.com), and shove it in the turf on a bit of an angle so the tip of the blade reaches the depth in the soil required for the bulb ó about 4 inches ó and gently pull up. Then Iíll poke the bulb, which is really a corm, into the hole pointy side up. I donít sweat it if it gets turned upside down in the process. It knows which way to grow. Iíll repeat the process, spacing the bulbs 3 to 4 inches apart.

I plant my spring bulbs in small groupings of threes and fives so they look like little bouquets when they bloom. When Iím done planting, Iíll gently tamp down on the turf to close the open spaces.

I donít worry about fertilizing as the crocus corms contain all the food they need to flower their first spring and the grass is fertilized on a regular basis. If the bulbs are happy where they are planted, they will multiply and return year after year. However, just to be sure I will have a little spring show, I will plant a few more a year from this fall.

Hardy to Zone 4, crocuses sprout and bloom very early in the season before the grass gets growing, so lawnmowers are not a threat. And unlike larger spring flowering bulbs, they donít leave behind a mess when the lawnmower hits the spent plants.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridayís in Homestyle. To ask her a question, go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at http://detroitnews.com/homestyle.