Take the time to order and plant tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other bulbs now, in preparation for next year’s vibrant Spring garden! Invest in a gift to post-winter self (when you see those bright blooms after a long cold spell, you will be so happy you did).
Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and crocuses are gorgeous, ideal for most climates, and fairly low maintenance as far as plants go. Often bred specifically for outdoor gardens, these bulbs produce a rainbow of colorful, fragrant and hardy blossoms that brighten up those fresh, Spring days. But the key is to plant them in your fall garden. Learn how to prep, plant and tend your spring flower garden before Fall weather sets in with our bulb planting guide.
First off, it’s important to find a reliable supplier, nursery or friend that can provide you with quality bulbs. We recommend investing in heirloom bulbs, as many old varieties of bulbs are becoming extinct due to the fact that only a few generic types are cultivated by most public gardens and home gardeners. Heirloom bulbs are often hardier and adaptable to varying climates, making them ideal for gardeners nationwide. They also offer a living connection to gardeners and plant cultivators of the past, as these gorgeous plants have been enjoyed by humans for centuries. You can find heirloom bulbs from various online outlets, or your local specialty garden shops and nurseries.
When to Plant
Just like with other crops, fall planting times for bulbs vary according to the first estimated frost date in your area. You can find your plant hardiness zone with this search tool, while your bulb package will tell you the hardiness of a particular type of bulb. Plant your bulbs in the fall once the soil temperature has dropped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and up until the first, hard frost (depending on where you are, this might be sooner rather than later). Hyacinths tend to root better in warmer soil, with daffodils next, followed by tulips, which enjoy being planted in cooler soil. REMEMBER: small and fleshy bulbs should be planted immediately, as they do not keep well. Larger bulbs can be stored at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit in a dark space for a few weeks if necessary.
Where to Plant
Bulbs love well-drained earth, such as loamy soil or clay soil augmented with sand and rich compost. Spring flowering bulbs should remain fairly dry over the summer months, and need somewhat aerated soil in order to multiply underground. You can easily plant bulbs in raised beds as long as you make sure your soil mixture is rich enough in organic matter, but not too dense for proper soil drainage. Most bulbs enjoy neutral to alkaline soil (about a pH of 7), so neutralize acidic soil with some agricultural lime or wood ashes. Most spring flowering bulbs enjoy full sun, although some varieties of daffodils and snowflakes enjoy a bit of afternoon shade.
Plant tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other large, Spring flowering bulbs at 6-8 inches deep (and about 6 inches apart). Smaller bulbs such as crocuses and daffodils are planted 2-4 inches deep, and 3 to 4 inches apart. Bulb packages will often give instruction on planting depth and spacing for specific bulb varieties. A trowel marked with measurements is always a handy tool at planting time. Once you’ve placed your bulbs in the ground (with the root side in the soil), cover the holes with soil and place a light layer of airy mulch (oak leaves, straw, pine branches, etc.) on top of the planted area. Mulching is especially important in areas that experience hard freezes, as the evaporation of moisture can cause unprotected bulbs to crack and decompose.
Tending and Care
Water your bulbs directly after planting them, making sure to soak the ground well. Keep the planted area moist until the freezes come on, but begin watering them again in the Spring if you experience dry weather in your area. Spring flowering bulbs should be let to dry out over the summer, as they are dormant and will produce showier flowers the following Spring. Most bulbs enjoy fertile soil, so administering a bit of slow release fertilizer once a year in the fall is a good idea. However, we do recommend testing your planting site first to know which nutrients are actually necessary, as high levels of phosphorus and potassium can become counter-productive.
Pests and Diseases
Heirloom bulbs tend resist most pests and diseases far better than modern bulbs. The most common pest problem gardeners experience with growing bulbs is having animals dig them up and chew on them. This can be remedied by covering the planted area with wire mesh, window screen or burlap bags until the smell or freshly dug earth has disappeared. If your new, Spring growth is in danger of being gnawed on, cover it with chicken wire.
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