32 October 1, 2008

October is here and it’s time to think spring flowers. No, I haven’t totally lost my mind. October is the month for planting your spring flowering bulbs.


When I say spring flowering bulbs, I am talking about Tulips, Daffodils, Narcissus, Crocus, Hyacinth and a slew of other flowers that grow from bulbs. If you want the flowers to be in your garden next spring, you must plant the bulbs this fall. The reason is that the spring flowering bulbs need to get a root system out into the soil. They then need to go through a period of being chilled by cold soil temperatures. As the soil warms in the spring, the rising soil temperatures make the bulbs put out their flowers. If you try to plant the bulbs in the spring, you won’t get any flowers. If you want tulips and daffodils flowering in your gardens next spring, now is the time to get busy.


There is a misconception that planting bulbs is a lot of hard work. As far as planting goes, bulbs are much easier than planting shrubs. If you can dig down 4 to 6 inches in your soil, you can easily plant flower bulbs. The only problem that you can run into is that spring flowering bulbs do not like to grow in a heavy clay soil. Heavy clay soils retain too much moisture and bulbs that sit in wet soil for long periods of time are bulbs that are going to rot. You are much better off growing bulbs in a sandy soil rather than trying to grow bulbs in a clay soil. Your spring flowering bulbs like to grow in a sunny area. This is particularly true of tulips. If you want tulip bulbs to come back year after year, you need to plant them in a sunny location. Other spring flowering bulbs are tolerant of partial shade locations, but all will thrive best in a sunny location.


When you are planting your spring flowering bulbs, it is always better to plant a cluster of bulbs. Let me give you an example. If you plant one tulip bulb, you will get a flower. If you plant 5 or 10 tulip bulbs in a cluster, you will have a tremendous show of spring color. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the size of the bulb, the more bulbs you will need to plant in a cluster to make a good showing of color.  10 or 15 crocus bulbs planted together will definitely show up better in your garden. Plant one bulb and space another bulb a foot apart and it will hardly be noticeable that you have any crocus planted in your garden.


Let’s take a moment to tell you how to plant the spring flowering bulbs. First you need to dig a hole. If you are planting tulips or daffodils you need to dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep. Crocus and other smaller bulbs only need to be planted about 4 inches deep.  The hole should be about a foot in diameter. In the bottom of the hole, it is best to add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of bulb food for each bulb that you are putting into the hole. Again, the larger the bulb, the more fertilizer you will be adding to the hole. Mix the fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole. You will now arrange the bulbs in the bottom of the hole. If you are planting 5 or 10 bulbs, be sure to space them evenly apart in the bottom of the hole. You then cover the bulbs with soil and if necessary, water the soil. Now dig another hole about a foot to two feet away from the first hole and repeat the planting process. By planting clusters of bulbs, you get a better visual appearance when the bulbs come into flower. How many clusters of bulbs you plant will depend on how much money you have to spend. Dollar for dollar, nothing else can compare to an early spring flowerbed abloom with flowers.


Now some more tips. You can buy bulbs in all price ranges. Bulbs are graded by size and larger size bulbs sell for more money. A larger size bulb will give you a better and longer lasting bloom than a smaller size bulb. When you are buying bulbs, you should be looking for top size bulbs. These are the largest size bulbs of a particular variety. A top size tulip bulb will of course be larger than a top size crocus bulb. Either way the top size bulbs are the bulbs you want to buy. The bulbs we sell in our store and the bulbs we well through our web site, www.harborgardens.com are all top size bulbs.

Some bulbs make tasty food for rodents. If you think you have a problem with rodents in your yard, it is best to treat the bulbs with an animal repellent. The bulbs can be treated at planting time and you can apply the repellent on top of the soil to keep rodents from digging up the bulbs.


Planting spring flowering bulbs now will mean a surprise of early spring color after the winter. Now is the time to get the bulbs into the ground.


Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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