In Your Garden: Bulb Planting

A little planning this fall can lead to a big payoff in the spring.  Fall bulbs like Tulips, Crocus, Daffodils and Hyacinth are hitting garden center shelves right now so it's time to get started. You can always find the best selection if you get there early.  Even if you do not have time to plant right now, you can buy the bulbs and store them somewhere cool and dry until you do have time.  Most bulbs can be planted and will do great up until the ground freezes. 

Tulips are a very popular spring bulb for many reasons.  They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes and reliably put on a show.  You might have a problem with squirrels digging your tulips in the fall after you planted them.  If you have had that problem in the past, spray the bulbs with a repellent spray and allow that to soak in for a few minutes before planting.  It makes the bulbs (and your hands) smell bad, but keeps the rodents away.  The same spray can be used in the spring to keep the deer away.  If deer are a problem, be sure to plant daffodils and alliums.  Both of these are plants that deer do not care for so you won't have to worry about spraying.

You can plant bulbs anywhere in your yard.  Since almost all bulbs are spring flowering, they tend to die back before trees have a chance to leaf out and shade the area.  You can plant them in masses or just tuck a few bulbs in a perennial bed to brighten up a border.  Most bulbs have different flowering times so by purchasing early, mid and late season varieties, you can extend your show from early April well into May.

As a general rule of thumb, large bulbs like daffodils, tulips and alliums like to be planted at least six to eight inches deep.  Smaller bulbs like crocus, muscari and aconite need to be only three inches below.  For deep holes, use a bulb planter, auger or hand trowel and measure to the bottom of the hole.  For small bulbs I find it is easier to remove a couple inches of soil in the area you want to plant.  Then, just space the bulbs evenly in the area and cover back with the soil you took off. 

You can plant the bulbs with a little bulb food over the top of the finished planted bed.  This fertilizer now will be there in the spring to help give the bulbs a boost.  Bone meal is also a great bulb fertilizer if you are looking for a more sustainable solution.  Sprinkle a small amount in the hole when you plant or top dress the entire area after you finish.  The only thing left to do is wait.  You'll enjoy a beautiful show come spring. 

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