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A Fall Saturday Morning With The Kids: Gardening 101

Hubby left town this morning for a Sunday game, and I wanted to get the kids outside. They had been inside all morning, alternating between arts n’ crafts (an assigned project for Babyboy’s class has morphed into a several days’ tornado of construction paper, glue sticks, markers and glitter pens for all) and Curious George. They had been fortified by a pancakes breakfast (from a mix, made in a large batch, stored in the fridge, and microwaved to order).

My workweek was sort of a downer, with many longer than usual clinic days and a few taxing cases. I had been planning to complete a long-overdue required training module my lightly scheduled Friday; but the afternoon was engulfed by clinical mass. Four p.m. rolled around, and I was still making phone calls on abnormal results, still writing notes, still emailing specialists. Come this morning, I needed fresh air as much as the kids did.

I had bought bulbs on sale last week, and the bag sat on a kitchen shelf. Tulips, daffodils, more tulips, more daffodils. I bought them, thinking of the bare mulchy patches of garden around our house. While the previous owners of this property had done a wonderful job with landscaping, thank goodness, it was all large bushes, with big spaces in between. I imagined a colorful spring garden. But, I’d never planted bulbs.

Never mind, we could make it a fun project!

I announced this plan. Babyboy needs no excuse to begin digging holes. If he finds a live worm or grub, all the better. He was halfway out the door before I could grab the bag.

Babygirl, not so much. She was not excited to dig in the dirt. But the bright and colorful photographs on the bulb bags, scarlet and yellow and orange and pink, tempted her out the door.

As Babyboy started holes with the big shovel, and I dug deep with the trowel, it dawned on me that I should have found time to read up on how, exactly, to plant bulbs.

The only instruction I had was what I remembered from the store display: “The ideal time to plant your bulbs is in the fall before the ground freezes! Assorted bulbs $3.99 per bag!” But, how deep does one dig? The ground got pretty hard not too far down. Did you need to pad the soil with compost, or fresh soil? Our soil was kind of rocky and sandy.

Oh, well. Babyboy and Babygirl picked out the bags that most appealed to them. We dug down as far as was easy, plopped down two, three bulbs, and covered them over with the crappy soil and old mulch.

We did this in batches, and in rather short order, had planted all the bare spots in the front and side garden beds. We got out the hose and watered them down. I imagined that one needed to saturate the ground well, as with planting mature plants.

Once the task was done, the kids ran around, until Babygirl, on a downhill race, face-planted. tears, hugs, cuddles, and we all tramped up the stairs for a snack break.

It’s only now, as the kids munch pretzels in front of Curious George, that I have a chance to read up on planting bulbs.

“Large bulbs should be planted 8 inches deep, small ones at least 4 inches deep.” Oops. All of our bulbs were pretty large, and we maybe made it 4 inches deep.

“Fortify and fertilize the soil if it’s dry and rocky.” Oops.

“Bulbs don’t like wet soil. Don’t over-water.” Oops.

Sigh. I may have gone to medical school, but I’m a pitiful gardener. Our bulbs may rot or end up as squirrel food, but, at least they were cheap, and at least we got out of the house for awhile.

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