Q. I recently bought some bulbs and, when I opened the bag, found that they were moldy. Will they still grow?\ A. Though you should definitely avoid buying bulbs that show signs of mold, bulbs that are a little bit moldy might bloom if they are still firm and haven't begun to rot. If you choose to take a chance on them, try using an informal planting scheme to minimize any disappointment next spring.
Except in my cutting garden, I often prefer to plant bulbs in naturalistic, seemingly random patterns rather than in straight rows. This way, if some bulbs fail, I don't end up with unsightly gaps. Here's a trick: Toss a few handfuls of bulbs onto a lawn or planting bed and dig holes where they fall (providing all the bulbs are at least their own width apart).Plant bulbs in rich, well-drained soil enriched with well-rotted compost and a fertilizer made especially for bulbs (available at garden centers). Tulip bulbs should be planted at a depth at least three times their height - and preferably four times their height. I suggest using a step-on bulb planter if you're planting a large quantity of bulbs, since it makes the digging much easier. Aerate the soil at the bottom of each hole with a hand cultivator to help the bulbs grow strong, healthy roots.
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The next time you buy bulbs, look for large, firm, heavy ones that are free of rotten spots. Don't worry if the papery, onion-like skin on the outside is torn, but it should be present.
Plant spring-blooming bulbs in early- to mid-fall, once the weather cools down, as soon after purchasing them as possible. (Check with a local garden center about best planting times in your area.) If you can't plant the bulbs right away, store them in a cool, dry place in a ventilated container such as a crate filled with wood shavings or a mesh bag hung from a peg.
In the south and southwest United States, winters may be too mild to provide bulbs with the period of cold they need to prompt blooms in the spring. Either look for prechilled bulbs in nurseries and catalogs or store the bulbs in the bottom of your refrigerator for six to eight weeks before planting them at about year's end.\
Q. What is the difference between heavy cream, light cream, clotted cream, creme fraiche and sour cream?
In general, cream is simply milk with a higher fat content. Originally, cream was produced by allowing fresh milk to sit until the fat layer, or cream, settled on the top; it was then skimmed off. Today, it is usually produced by spinning unhomogenized milk in a centrifuge until it separates into two layers.
You can purchase cream with varying percentages of fat. Heavy cream, the only cream that can be whipped, consists of about 40 percent fat by weight, while light cream is 20 percent to 30 percent fat.
Creme fraiche and sour cream are both milk products that have been thickened (and, in the case of sour cream, soured) by a fermenting agent, usually an acidic ingredient or a culture of harmless bacteria. Creme fraiche has a tangy flavor and is a good substitute for sour cream in sauces that are heated because it can be boiled without curdling. It is also wonderful in salad dressings and as a topping for fruits and berries.
To make creme fraiche at home, add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk or sour cream to 2 cups of heavy cream. Mix and let sit at room temperature for six to eight hours. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.
Clotted cream, extremely rich at 55 percent fat, is a specialty of Devonshire, England; it is the traditional topping for scones served at tea time and is also delicious on fresh fruit. Clotted cream is created by heating unpasteurized milk until a dense layer of cream forms on the surface. After the milk cools, the cream is skimmed off the top.
Since the U.S. government requires all milk to be pasteurized, you can't make clotted cream at home unless you get your milk directly from a farm. Look for it instead in supermarkets and gourmet-food stores.\
Q. How can I encourage a verdigris finish on a garden archway I made using copper pipe?\ A. Verdigris is the attractive green finish copper displays as it weathers and ages outdoors. Fortunately, you don't have to wait years for it to appear: Simply spray copper with vinegar and a patina of verdigris will form almost overnight. (Word to the wise: Instant verdigris is also the reason why you should never cook acidic foods in an unlined copper pan!)