Hard work does pay off, even if you’re not always there to enjoy the triumph of your travails. I’ve been buying and planting daffodil bulbs since the year I learned squirrels don’t like to eat them. It’s easy to overindulge in a good thing, especially when the indulgences are spread out over time. That’s how you wake up one day and can’t fit into your “skinny jeans,” and realize you have a bad habit of eating ice cream every night.
Daffodils are easy to love. The flowers make you smile from the time you see the bright colors on the bag until the happy blooms fade. You can also torture daffies by planting them on the last day of January. After a year or two, nobody knows you waited until the last minute.
One day I was avoiding more pressing tasks, and decided to take a break and do something about the daffodils. Once I got started, I had to finish the job or continue to trip over the bag.
The only worthy containers on hand were 10-gallon fabric pots I had bought in bulk, intending to share with my mother.
Filling five 10-gallon pots is a job that should be given to a teenage boy trying to save money for an educational trip to the Smithsonian. Where was that fictitious kid when I needed him?
I buy a mound of potting soil when its $2 a bag in early spring. That pile was overdue to be put to good use.
After what seemed like hours, the pots were filled. I had planted 70 daffodils and now hated daffodils.
Now I’m glad I cursed and sweated and gave myself a backache.
Every few days I’ve been gathering blooms and bringing them to my classroom. I have a flower press in my room and my plan is to gather the faded blooms and let children experiment with decoupage. Too bad you can’t take retroactive tax breaks for education-related purchases made years ago.
Some useful advice
Daffodils do just dandy in our climate. I have not scientifically tracked bulbs. However, I’d say that most of my daffodils bloom again and again. Hyacinth bulbs, in contrast, tend to be dingy and disappointing after the second year.
Freesia bulbs will also do well as repeats. However, the leaves will wither when the weather turns cold overnight. Another winner is Lilly of the Valley, which I have planted in the pot where I grow my fig tree. Lilly of the Valley is sweet, but almost a waste when blooming next to the over-shine of daffodils.
Many books I have read recommend digging up daffodils every few years, and certainly if you notice that they are not blooming. That’s a great idea. I’ll let you know how that goes after some kid knocks on my door to earn money for his educational adventure.
In the meantime, I like the idea of planting in pots. Once every five years, I can hoist the 10-gallon containers into a wheelbarrow, fish around for viable bulbs and start over in fresh soil.
The weather is still chilly, but I’m betting now is a good time to start seeds indoors. You don’t need a sunny bay window to get things started. Kale, spinach, lettuce and other cooler season plants will sprout nicely in containers on top of the refrigerator. It’s a bit warmer up there. You’ll remember to check for sprouts each time you make yourself another bowl of ice cream.
I like 4-inch pots. Wet the soil first, plant your seeds to appropriate depth and cover the container with plastic wrap. You may need to uncover the container for a few hours every once in a while, or risk moldy soil.
When the days get warmer, you’ll need to set the plants in a sheltered location and remember to bring them indoors at night. Plants don’t like the shock of cold nights after growing up cozy on the top of your refrigerator.
It may be almost too late to plant tomatoes indoors. If your plants are small in June, you’ll feel cheated when your only bountiful harvest is in October. For the past three weekends I’ve been planting tomatoes in our greenhouse at school. The garden helpers weren’t there, so I had to jump over the chain link fence to do the dirty work. The plants will be my class’ main fundraiser for our field trip fund. Like many things, I probably planted too many. I’m discovering that gardening at school has the same therapeutic effect that it does at home. I can feel like I am doing something productive while avoiding other work that is higher on my priority list.
However, this year growing too much seems important. Selling those tomato plants at our school’s Harvest Festival will bring smiles to more faces than just my own.