Planting Bulbs

A few posts back I mentioned planting bulbs.  Now is the time!

I plant my spring booming bulbs in the fall when the temperature drops and the ground is still workable.  You can plant up until the ground freezes and you should wait until the temp gets down below 55 degrees.  Keep your bulbs in a cool dry place until then and if you can bear it, plant them as late as after the first frost.  Make sure your bulbs are firm.  If they are soft it can be an indication of rot and you will not see plants in the spring.

When planting bulbs with the goal of having perennial blooms, the bubs should be placed at a depth of 3 times their size.  For example, if you have a bulb that is 2” tall, aim for a planting depth of 6”.  You can mark this depth on your shovel or you can use a bulb planter/soil knife with inch markings on them.  Another easy trick is to stack three bulbs on top of each other.  As long as the top bulb does not clear ground level you are fine.  Of course the stacking is just for measurement, unstack them before burying.

You can fertilize bulbs after planting.  Do not put fertilizer in the hole with the bulb, this can burn them.  Bonemeal is also an option.  You may choose to check your soil before you add fertilizer to determine which nutrients you need.

I do not water my bulbs after planting as my soil is very damp and high in clay.   Too much water can cause the bulbs to rot.  Depending on your soil, watering the bulbs after planting may be beneficial.

Make sure you label or mark on your map where your bulbs are planted.  During spring cleanup, depending on the bloom time of your bulbs, you will need to be aware of their presence to preserve their sprouts.  Another reason to mark your plantings is that you can plant summer blooming annuals and perennials over bulbs.  For example, I have a patch of crocus bulbs (which are actually corms, but that’s for another post) that sprout very early, as early February.  Once the flowers are spent the striped leaves hang around for a while and as these leaves are basking in the sun and storing up energy for next year’s blooming, companion plants around them are just sprouting. As the annual Alyssum and perennial dead-nettle start to fill in the area, the crocus leaves have naturally faded away.  With this plan, this area in the garden is full and lush from early spring to all the way through the summer.

If you have a problem in your area, one more important step is to protect your bulbs from critters.  You can protect bulbs underground by either planting them in a cage or laying a single layer of chicken wire over them before you cover them with topsoil.  If you use this method make sure the open spaces in the chicken wire are thick enough for your stems to easily grow through.  Another option is to apply a fresh mulch layer over the area in which the bulbs are planted.  Make sure that this is a very strong smelling mulch.  The smell will deter pests.  Composted leaf mulch is very effective.  For added protection you can lay plastic mesh or chicken wire over the mulch and tack the edges down with sod staples.  There are also many bulbs which are less likely to be dug up by wildlife.  Try Allium, Chionodoxa, Colchicum, Muscari, and Narcissus to name a few.

In addition to being wildlife-resistant like those named above Anemone and Fritillaria meleagris are good choices for shady places.  Two very versatile bulbs are Galanthus and Leucojum, both being wildlife-resistant, good for shade, and tolerant of wet soils.

All the links for the bulbs are to Brent and Becky’s, a great supplier.  Another good supplier is Van Engelen.  If you have a favorite supplier let me know and I will share the link.  Bulbs do sell out so it’s good to plan ahead.

So now the bulbs are planted, the mulch is down, maybe you are thinking about a perennial or annual overlay for the area for next summer.  Make some notes in your journal while you sip hot cider and look forward to your spring blooms.


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