15October 4, 2017

Every spring, a few customers will come into the garden center looking for either tulip or daffodil bulbs. They have seen the nice display of blooms in someone’s yard and they would like to do the same thing. You can see the look of disappointment on their face when you tell them it is too late to plant these bulbs. They usually ask when is the right time to plant these bulbs. When I tell them that the bulbs should be planted in the fall, they seem even more perplexed. Since now is the time to plant what is collectively called spring flowering bulbs, let’s have a talk about planting bulbs now.

Tulips, daffodil, crocus, grape hyacinth, alliums and many more of the spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall. The bulbs go into the ground now. The bulbs put their roots out into the soil before the ground freezes. The bulbs need to be exposed to cold soil temperatures for about 16 weeks. In the spring as the soil warms up, the warming soil temperatures cause the bulbs to put up leafy growth and ultimately put out flower buds and soon after the buds open into the spring flowers that most gardeners really admire.

One of the misconceptions around planting bulbs is that it is a lot of work. The majority of the spring flowering bulbs that you buy are grown in the Netherlands. The industry has adopted an ad campaign with the slogan “ Dig, Drop, Done.” In many cases, it truly is that easy. Unless you have soil that contains a lot of clay, you just need to dig a hole to an appropriate depth, add some bulb fertilizer to the soil, place the bulbs in the bottom of the hole, cover the bulbs with soil and give the bulbs some water. Dig, Drop, Done.
You will need to know that the bulbs need to be planted at a particular depth in the soil. As an easy rule of thumb, the larger the bulb, the deeper it is planted in the soil. For example, tulip and daffodil bulbs are usually planted 6 inches deep in the soil. Crocus and most of the other smaller bulbs are planted 4 inches deep in the soil. Don’t worry about remembering the proper depth for planting. The recommended depth is right on the package. Another thing you need to know is that when the bulbs are harvested in the Netherlands, the bulbs are graded by size. Sort of the small, medium, large, extra large similar to what you see when you buy eggs in the supermarket. You want to buy the largest size you can find for each variety of bulb. The reason is that the larger sizes have a lot more stored energy to give you a beautiful flower display. The smaller flowering bulbs will obviously be smaller but you should ask if the bulbs you are buying are top size bulbs. Your independently owned local garden centers will have the top size bulbs available. They may be a bit more money than what you would find in a box store. But the reason you are planting bulbs is because you want flowers in the spring. Smaller graded bulbs may or may not flower properly.

If you have a small yard, you may want to consider layering the bulbs to give you a mass display of flowers in a small area. Spring flowering bulbs always look better if you plant a multiple number of bulbs in a cluster. On the larger size bulbs, you would cluster together 5 bulbs. On smaller size bulbs you would cluster together 10 bulbs. Once the bulbs bloom in the spring, you will see the “ Wow “ of planting in clusters. If you have a small area for bulbs, you will dig a hole that is at least 12 inches across and 6 inches deep. At the 6-inch depth, you will add some bulb fertilizer and mix it into the soil. You will add 5 or more tulip or daffodil bulbs at the bottom of the hole. Cover those bulbs with 2 inches of soil and lightly press the soil down. Next add crocus, hyacinth or grape hyacinth in clusters of 7 to 10 bulbs. Cover the bulbs with the remainder of the soil and press into place. Add some water and you are done. If you have squirrels in your neighborhood, you may want to sprinkle some animal repellent on top of the soil to prevent the squirrels from digging up the bulbs. Come the spring, the bulbs you have planted will come into bloom at the appropriate time for each variety. You will have a mini bulb garden with loads of flowers in a small area. Of course, you can plant single groups of particular bulbs if you have room for clusters of say just tulips or just daffodils. It is fast and easy work to plant your spring flowering bulbs.

At this point in time, we are in for a streak of nice weather. Take some time to “ Dig, Drop Done” with some spring flowering bulbs. Come the spring, you will love to see those beautiful flowers, in bloom, in your garden.

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