Fall is coming on strong! And you may think your flower-gardening activities are over at this point, but we have one more thing for you to consider. Planting bulbs is one of the easiest and most rewarding gardening activities you can do! It can be done by anyone; whether you are a novice or a master gardener. It won’t take up too much of your time (promise). And, it will pay off big time in the spring. As always, we’re providing you with everything you need to know to do it right.
Purchasing and Planning
For best results, purchase from a reputable nursery, garden center or online source. You want to start with the best bulbs possible to ensure maximum results. Look for bulbs that are large, firm and free of visible disease and damage, avoiding those that are soft or moldy. Larger bulbs will produce larger blooms. If you are not planting right away, be sure to store your bulbs in a cool, dry location. Just be sure you plant them this season, as they won’t last forever sitting on a shelf in your garage.
You want to plant your fall bulbs once the ground is cool, when evening temperatures drop to 40 to 50 degrees. Planting about six weeks before the first frost will allow the plants to develop a strong root system.
Let’s get on with the planting, shall we? Follow these tips for the best results:
- Keep all your bulbs separated by variety as you go. You will find it very difficult to keep track of what’s what if you don’t.
- Choose your location wisely. Most flowering bulbs prefer full or part sun, which can be almost anywhere in your landscape in the spring, as trees have yet to leaf out.
- You want to plant in loose, workable, well-drained soil. Remove any weeds, rocks or debris. Mix in some organic material such as peat moss or compost if your soil is lacking in nutrients. PRO TIP: Mix some bone meal or superphosphate into the soil at the bottom of the hole to encourage strong root growth.
- Depending on the bulb, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. Planting at the proper depth will help them to start to grow at the right time. If you go too deep, you risk later blooms or no blooms at all. Too shallow, and you may risk exposing new growth to colder temps in the early spring. A general guideline is to plant big bulbs about 8" deep and small bulbs about 5" deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up, which is the stem or the roots down. If you can't figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don't get it right, it will still find its way right side up.
- Backfill the soil over the hole, lightly compressing but not tightly packing it. Water to close any air pockets and allow the bulbs to settle in. You should only have to water if the season is particularly dry. Be careful not to over-hydrate, as bulbs don’t like to get their “feet” wet.
- Plant bulbs generously in case some do not sprout.
- Cover with about two inches of mulch to protect the roots during the colder months, decrease evaporation and help prevent weeds.
- In the spring, spread an organic fertilizer or slow-release bulb food on top of the soil.
Planting in fall provides an enjoyable experience, as cooler weather makes working outside more desirable. Think about it this way, a few hours of effort now will yield those amazing first blooms of spring just when you need that colorful boost the most!