Summer’s not even over and I’m already writing about spring blooming bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. Soon you’ll be seeing garden centers advertising bulbs. That’s because these bulbs have to be planted this fall in order to have blooms next spring.
Bulbs are among the very first plants to bloom as spring approaches. I think you’ll agree that they’re a welcome sight after a long, harsh winter. If you really enjoy this annual flourish of color, start thinking of where you’d like your bulb garden to be. Do you want all one color? Or a mix of colors? Do you want big splashes of color? Or a random array of color like a kaleidoscope? It’s a good idea to measure the space in which you plan to plant your bulb garden and then plot it out on paper.
Bulbs should be spaced two to three inches apart for a big splash of color. Planting them four to five inches will give your bulb garden a looser look. These numbers will help you calculate how many bulbs you’ll need for the space you’ve allocated.
Garden centers sell bulbs in bulk and pre-packaged. Package labels should contain the number of bulbs, color(s) and planting instructions. Those sold in bulk are usually in bulk containers with a tag on the container indicating the color. Be wary, though, of other customers handling the bulk bulbs and inadvertently returning them to the wrong tray. There should be no doubt about the colors in sealed packages.
When you get the bulbs home, keep them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them. There’s no hurry; they can be planted anytime before the ground freezes. Depending on how many bulbs you’re planting, you can either dig a row and plant them as you would vegetables in a garden, or you can plant them individually. Either way, the holes should be twice as deep as the length of the bulb. For instance, bulbs two inches long should be planted four inches deep.
If you’re planting in rows, dig the row to the proper depth. Stretch out a string with knots tied at the planting intervals, or use another measuring device to assure proper spacing. Place bulbs root end (the flat, hairy end) down in the row at the proper intervals. Be sure the pointed end is facing up and push the bulb into the loose soil at the bottom of the hole to keep it from tipping when you backfill. Backfill the row before digging the next row. When finished, give the whole planting bed a good watering.
To plant individual bulbs, use your measuring device to determine the spacing. Lay the bulbs on the ground next to where you’re going to plant them. Using either a trowel or a bulb planter, dig a hole to the proper depth, place the bulb in root end down and backfill. If you’re using a trowel, you just have to plunge it into the soil and pull it toward you, place the bulb in the hole, remove the trowel and smooth out the soil. Water the whole bed when you finish.
You don’t need to fertilize when you plant bulbs. They have plenty of food stored in the bulbs. However, they’d probably appreciate it if you spread some fertilizer around the bed in subsequent autumns.
I recommend that you take photos of your bulb gardens when they bloom each spring. As time goes on, bulbs can fail to bloom for various reasons. The photos can help you pinpoint where you have to replace bulbs in the fall.