So you had a great year of colorful blooms in your garden, but Fall is now upon us! It's time to plant your bulbs to prepare for the next gardening season. Here are some helpful tips for effectively planting and designing next spring's garden masterpiece!
- Know Your Planting Window – Plant your bulbs as soon as the ground is cool. In most climate zones in the US, this would coincide with the first frost, when night time temperatures reach 40-50F. The ideal planting window is 6 weeks before the ground freezes. If necessary, bulbs can be stored for a month or longer, if you keep them in a cool dry place. However, when in doubt, bulbs belong in the ground. They won't last long unplanted!
- Read the Label – Try to keep the label and the bulbs together until you're ready to plant. Without the label, you can't tell the difference between red tulips and white ones just by looking at the bulbs.
- Decide Where to Plant – Bulbs can be planted pretty much anywhere in your garden, as long as you have adequate soil drainage. Avoid areas where water collects, like the bottom of hills.
- Prepare Your Planting Bed – Break up the soil so it's loose and workable. If it's a new garden bed, it could benefit from adding organic matter such as peat moss. This is available at your local Walmart garden center.
- Plant the pointy end up – it's as simple as that. Even if you don't get it exactly right, the flower bulb will still find its way topside.
- Plant big bulbs about 8" deep and small bulbs about 5" deep.
- Bulbs are natural storehouses of food. They don't need anything to flower the first year. For bulbs that are intended to naturalize or perennialize (return for several years) or for bulbs that are coming into their second year, spread an organic fertilizer such as compost or well-rotted cow manure, or a slow release bulb food on top of the soil.
- If you do fertilize, never mix fertilizer in the planting hole. It can burn the roots. Also, don't add bone meal. Modern bone meal adds little nutritional value. It can also encourage pests and even dogs to dig up your bulbs looking for bones!
- Plant bulbs in clusters. Don't plant one bulb alone, or make a long thin line along the walk. Clusters give a concentration of color for greatest impact. Even if you don't have enough bulbs for a big bed, small clusters can make a super spring show.
- Plant low bulbs in front of high. This is a good general rule for bulbs that bloom at the same time. Of course there are times to break this rule. For example if the low growing bulbs bloom early and the tall bulbs bloom late, plant the tall in front. Their display will camouflage the dying foliage of the smaller bulbs!
- Try layering. You can plant small bulbs in a layer right on top of large bulbs. If you plant bulbs that flower in the same period you can create an interesting double-decker effect. Or you can stagger the bloom time by planting mid- and late-season bloomers together, creating a spring display that blooms in succession, for a whole season of color!
In the end, what you do with fall bulbs is limited only by your imagination. A few hours one brisk autumn afternoon can yield months of colorful excitement in your yard or garden next spring.