Gardening: Spring flowers depend on your actions now

Nancy Szerlag

If spring flowering bulbs make your heart sing in April and May, you must to take a leap of faith and plant the bulbs in fall, so now is the time to begin. Allium and daffodils are perfect for gardens plagued by deer and other critters because animals won’t eat them.

While many gardening books recommend adding bone meal or bulb fertilizers to the holes before planting, I found adding these organic fertilizers to the hole attracts squirrels and raccoons that will dig up the bulbs. So I choose to plant them fertilizer-free and they thrive.

The following spring I sprinkle a bit of organic fertilizer or compost over areas after they flower. Laying squares of chicken wire over the plantings will also keep the animals from digging up the bulbs and the screen can be removed in late fall or before the plants emerge in spring.

Thanks to the health food craze, growing raspberries and other fruit in backyards is becoming quite popular. Pruning is a big key to success in growing and keeping these rambling shrubs under control so it’s important to know how and when to do it. Because raspberries bloom on year-old wood, the branches, called floricanes — that produced fruit this year will die and should be removed. This was a job that was usually done in fall, but research from Cornell University indicates these dying branches continue to provide the plants with carbohydrates well into early winter, helping the plant to survive dormancy.

So late winter or very early spring removal is now recommended. To make it easy to identify these spent floricanes for removal, mark them with strips of colored duct tape now. For more information on pruning red raspberries check out this link from Fine Gardening Magazine: raspberries.

When buying raspberries or any plants, be sure to keep the tags so you can refer to the care of that particular variety in the future. Not all shrubs are treated the same so you need to know the variety as well as the species when asking for or researching help.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. Email her at Szerlag You can also read her previous columns at