Troubled Tulips, Pruning Azaleas

Garden Clock

By Pauline Keegan

Slow-release fertilizer can help flower bed

Is it OK to plant a flower bed under a tree?

Planting a bed under a tree is possible but it requires special treatment. You will have multiple root systems competing for water and nutrients. Be sure to water your new planting regularly for a couple of months until the plants are well established. After the plants have settled in, gradually reduce the frequency of watering, but soak the entire planting area thoroughly each time you water. Deep watering encourages root systems to grow deeper making plants more drought tolerant and reducing surface rooting that can interfere with your garden. Letting the soil dry after irrigation allows for natural shrinking and swelling that will help improve soil structure. Established trees generally don’t need much supplemental fertilizer, but with new roots to feed, you may want to add a balanced slow-release fertilizer (10-10-10) or compost tea. Once the new planting is established, you can apply a fertilizer a couple of times a growing season or amend the bed annually with compost or other organic matter.

My tulips are always pretty and green but they have no blooms. What’s wrong?

Tulips are native to cool climates and require 10 to 12 weeks in a cool, dark, atmosphere with temperatures at 40 degrees in order to set buds. If yours are planted near a south-facing wall, it is quite possible that the soil does not get that cool for a long enough period to initiate flower buds. Another factor that may be causing the problem is that the fertilizer you are using contains too much nitrogen. Bone meal is the traditional fertilizer for bulbs, but there are other low-nitrogen fertilizers on the market that are recommended for tulips and other bulbs.

When can I prune my azaleas?
You can prune azaleas lightly when they are in bloom and use the cuttings to decorate your home. More extensive pruning should be done after flowering is over. Do not shear your plants, but keep their graceful, natural shape by cutting off a limb that has grown out of bounds. A yearly light pruning will maintain the shape of your azalea for many years.

Send your questions and tips to Washington County Master Gardeners, 2536 N. McConnell Ave., Fayetteville, 72704. You may also call (479) 444-1755 for answers to you questions.

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