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Signs of Spring in the Garden: Blackbirds, flies, and bulbs are popping up everywhere

March 11, 2011

Credit: Doreen G. Howard
Your rating: None Average: 4 of 5 (1 vote)

Last week, there was a foot of slushy snow on the ground. Today, as I cleaned out the front flower bed, trimmed roses and admired the daffodil and woodland hyacinth sprouts, I spotted crocus in the middle of the lawn.

The crocus popped up overnight and bloomed promptly in the balmy 50° F weather.

Black and iridescent green Diptera or two-winged flies, which feed on rotting matter were around the flowers chewing up turf decayed during the long winter.

The bugs are back, so it must be spring!

Black flies are feasting on rotting grass and looking for nectar on the crocus.

Male red-winged blackbirds have returned, too. I’ve seen a dozen males in the area, each already staking out its territory. The males return north a couple weeks ahead of the females so that they have land and a house (nest) built to attract the most desirable of the ladies.

Tulips are pushing out of the shredded leaves and compost mulch, too. I can hardly wait until Zoomerschoon, a cream and strawberry flame tulip I purchased from Old House Heirloom Bulbs blooms. This antique, first found in 1620, is in my humble opinion the most beautiful of the streaked tulips of Tulipmania. They carried a virus in their genes that ''broke'' colors in breathtaking patterns.

Zoomerschoon, an antique from the 1600's, is my favorite tulip.  Sprouts are already up!

Living in frigid USDA Climate Zone 4b, along the Wisconsin-Illinois border, I’ve become used to late springs and a persisting snow pack into April in most years. So this is a treat, especially after a record-breaking blizzard four weeks ago.

I’m enjoying every new green sprout that pokes out of the ground and the balmy 55F sunshine. And I’m anxious to plant. I have mums, lettuce, herbs, miniature cabbage and ‘Veronica’ green cauliflower transplants indoors under lights, ready to harden off. Guess it’s time to start putting them outdoors in a sheltered spot during the day.

Hooray Spring!

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Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including Amazon.com.


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Tulips Won't Grow

By farmerboy96

I planted tulips years ago and they always grew every year. But, the last few years their leaves have been poking out of the ground, but the tulip itself hasn't. What happened, and what do I do?

Re: Tulips Won't Grow

By Doreen G. Howard

The bulbs may be too crowded and need dividing.  Gently dig up the clump.  Separate bulbs and replant six inches apart in all directions.  You'll end up with more bulbs and blooms.  Also, all bulbs should be fertilized with bone meal and a bit of nitrogen when foliage pushes out of the ground every year.  Sprinkle bulb food over the ground just before a rain is expected or water in the fertilizer. 

Still have crocus bulbs can i plant them now?

By Patricia De La Garza

Bought them late fall but first snow gotme first! Some are budding can i still plant them ?

Re: Still have crocus bulbs can i plant them now?

By Doreen G. Howard

Go for it!  Wittle out  little holes in your lawn and/or the front edge of flower beds.  Pop the bulbs in the holes, pointed side up, and cover with about 1/3 to 1/2 inch of soil.  They may bloom, especially the ones that have buds.  Foliage will appear on all bulbs, though.  Let it ripen (until leaves brown or yellow) before mowing the lawn.  Next spring you'll have plenty of crocus!

sap's running

By Catherine Boeckmann

For me in NH, a sign of spring is seeing the buds on the trees and the sugar houses boiling! Still snow high on the banks, but mud and more mud everywhere else! No crocus yet, but waiting.

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