Story last updated at 2:55 p.m. Thursday, September 12, 2002

Now is the time to think about bulbs
Bulbs: They cost money, can be eaten by vermin, heave from the ground thanks to frost, bloom not as early as you think they should, bloom for not as long as you would like, fail to bloom, are taller/shorter than you thought, don't really "naturalize" The list goes on.

But, as sure as the sun rises in the east, I will buy bulbs and bulb food. I will spend hours on my knees planting zillions of them. I will have visions of grandeur. Ah, the folly of the human soul.

If you insist on buying bulbs, get to it now. Ordering from catalogues will need to be done over the phone or Internet. Mail will be too slow, as the selections will be running low right about now.

Locally, you will find bulbs making appearances in the grocery store, the hardware store and the feed and seed store. The choice is yours. Those that are offered will do just fine here.

It's the catalogue pictures that can get you (me) into trouble. Take care to note the zone, go for no more than four, and cross your fingers at that.

I do not plant my bulbs as deep as the directions that they come with recommend. I have found that they take forever to come up, and forever can be a really long time.

If you are going to plant a handful of crocus, dig a hole, sprinkle some little gravel into the bottom, add some bulb food, add the crocus, cover with more gravel, cover with dirt, and wait 'til spring. The gravel will deter the vermin that love to feast on your investment. At least in theory.

I ordered a collection on Asiatic lilies last fall from White Flower Farm. The collection was billed as "Strawberries and Cream," and the picture was inspirational. I made my order of 25 of these lovelies and waited with bated breath for the fall show. What a disappointment: yellows, corals, an actual orange. I have more "Strawberries and Cream" in my cereal bowl. Rats. But they are lovely, sort of.

I have become a believer of Asiatic lilies, so if you come across any of these, be sure to move fast. The clutch of bulbs that Claire Waxman gave me last year bloomed their hearts out this fall, a deep burgundy.

What I failed at was the annual candytuft that I planted at their feet. I thought it would soften the look of the lily stem, would fill in that yawning void. Alas, the colors were jarring in this situation and detracted from the overall effect.

I have until next year to think of something else, preferably a perennial that will have bloomed early and leave a complimentary foliage to the lilies. Why not shoot for perfection as long as I'm dreaming?

Which brings me, somehow, to garlic. The entire order that I planted last fall rotted. Well now. Has this deterred me? Of course not. It became apparent that the bed I planted them in was too wet for overwintering garlic.

I most certainly will not make that same mistake twice. Because I love to grow garlic. It comes up through the snow. It is early beyond belief. We are still eating the crop harvested a year ago. It has been stored, labeled, in brown paper lunch sacks (artfully arranged in a handmade basket in case Martha is reading this) on top of the refrigerator all year. I gave away a ton of it no less.

I think, if planted thoughtfully, this could be Homer's next cash crop, right after artichokes.

Filaree Farm, 509-422-6940, or email:; or webpage: These folks are ever so delightful to deal with and will send off your garlic pronto. Their catalogue is a lesson in garlic. It makes great bedtime reading.

I will forever be grateful to Hal Smith for introducing me to garlic cultivation. If you haven't planted any before make this your year of adventure.

If you intend on forcing bulbs this winter, be sure to make your selection now

NOTE: If the tops of your potatoes have expired or look like they want to, may I suggest that you dig your spuds? Why leave them in the ground any longer?

I have all of my Yukon golds drying on and under newspaper in the basement at this very moment. I dug them, washed them off with the hose, let them dry in the sun for a few hours and took them downstairs to dry some more. I laid down several layers of newspapers and put a few layers on top so no light would reach them and make them turn green, which is toxic and leaves a bitter taste even if you didn't know they were toxic.

But I have never heard of death by green potato, so there you go.