Spring is around the corner. What? So soon? I’m not ready!
Okay, not really. We’re rolling in on fall, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be thinking about spring. Spring flowers need fall bulbs, which means it’s time to get out and get shopping. With so many gorgeous flowers to choose from, your hardest job is to limit your choices!
My personal favorite is the tulip. Imperial, elegant, clean lines and brilliant color, this gal is the Queen in my eyes. I also love iris. The deep blue calms the soul, the delicate petals a thing of awe. Daffodils and hyacinth are long-time favorites. Then there’s crocus, allium—the list goes on. Like I said, the hardest part will be choosing which bulbs to plant.
How to plant bulbs
Bulbs will work just about anywhere in your garden, so long as they have well-drained soil and a good chunk of sun. Be sure to avoid areas where water sits. Ducks like to sit in water. Bulbs do not. They should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50° F, or at least six weeks before the ground freezes. Until then, keep track of your label—bulbs tend to look alike and you won’t be able to tell the red from blue, pink from yellow!
Plant the pointy end up. That’s about all you need to know when it comes time to dig. It’s pretty easy to spot on most bulbs, but even if you miss, the flower bulb can still find its way up. Flowers are smart like that. As a rule, bulbs require a planting depth equal to three times the height of the bulb, spaced to a distance of twice the width of the bulb.
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, allium and crown imperials are your larger bulbs, going about 6-8” deep. Smaller species tulips, small allium, crocuses and the like will be around 2-3” deep. And while you have that shovel in your hand, think about scooping out a trench instead of individual holes. Less tedious, if you ask me. Drop, stagger, and run!
Don’t worry about fertilizer
Don’t worry about fertilizer the first year. Bulbs are kind of like self-contained food pantries. They won’t need anything to flower the first year, but if you have perennial bulbs (yearly returns), then consider composted manure, worm poop, or how about a scoop from your compost pile? They all work!
If you do fertilize your brand new bulb, don’t put the fertilizer in the planting hole. It can burn the roots, so take caution to thoroughly mix it with surrounding soil. Next, push the bulb into the soil and cover, patting loose soil into place, removing any air pockets. Water deeply.
When considering where to plant, think of your ultimate goal. Do you like the monochrome look? Perhaps a dazzling palette of varying colors? Another design consideration: depending on which types of flowers you like, think about planting short ones in front of tall, giving you a layered look. (Label should reflect mature flower height.) This technique works if they bloom around the same time, but what if they bloom at different times? Put short, early bloomers in back, tall, late bloomers out front. Then, when the short wilt and die back, the tall will hide them. Genius!
Think of it, in one brisk, fall afternoon you can have months of beautiful color come spring. Your winter-stricken landscape will thank you, your neighbors will thank you—but hurry—these beauties are popular and supply goes quick. It’s never too soon to think about spring. Besides, you can store your blooms for about a month before planting.
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