After the hot, dry summer we’ve just endured, it’s hard to imagine that cold, bleak days of winter are just around the corner. By February and March, we’ll be scanning the snow drifts for the first color of an approaching spring, and the appearance of colorful crocuses pushing up through the snow can signal that spring is coming soon.
Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths will make their appearance soon after the crocus. While these are all spring flowering plants, their bulbs need to be planted in the fall. Fall planting allows bulbs to become acclimated to their new home before the ground freezes and to get a head start on spring.
Garden centers now have displays of every color and variety of bulbs. You can buy mixed packages with different colors, packages in a single color or even single bulbs so you can plant them according to your own design.
It’s a good idea to sketch out what you want your bulb garden to look like before shopping for bulbs. This holds true regardless of whether you buy packages or single bulbs. If you don’t have a plan, you’re apt to be disappointed with the results.
Leave the bulbs in the ground and they’ll re-bloom spring after spring. If you’re disappointed with the garden design after the first blooming, however, you can dig the bulbs up and replant them. Your plan will direct you to where you planted each color. When you replant them, sketch out another plan to show each bulb’s new location.
All you really need to plant bulbs is a trowel, although garden stores also have fancy bulb planting tools. Just thrust your trowel into the ground and pull it back toward you until you have a hole about the diameter of the bulb and twice as deep as the length of the bulb. Drop the bulb into the hole and backfill. You don’t have to put any fertilizer in the planting hole. Bulbs are made up almost entirely of the starches the plants need to live through the winter, push through the soil, leaf out and flower next spring.
Be sure to plant the bulbs right side up. The root side (flat with small hair roots) faces the bottom of the hole. After backfilling, tamp the area lightly to eliminate air pockets and then water the newly planted bulbs.
You can plant right up until the ground freezes but I recommend planting bulbs as soon as you buy them, giving them the maximum amount of time to acclimate.