Notes from the Test Garden

How to Plant Bulbs

Learn how to successfully prepare for spring by planting your bulbs in the fall

Spring bulbs are always a welcome sight, a sign that the cold months are drawing to an end and the warm sunshine is coming soon. However, some gardeners may not know the best way to plant bulbs for a successful bloom in the spring. If you don’t want to wait until spring to see your bulbs bloom, read this article by Tovah Martin to learn how to force bulbs to bloom early.

Winter is wonderful—it just doesn’t need to linger so long. During the depths of the season, I find myself thirsting for something to lift my spirits in a green sort of way. Actually, a little dose of color wouldn’t be bad, either.

That’s where forcing spring bulbs comes in. You’ve probably seen the phenomenon in the supermarket: During February or March—somewhere between the vegetables and the houseplants—you can usually find a few pots of token pearly white tulips and a ‘Tête-à-Tête’ daffodil or two. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many spring bulbs are more thrilling than those old standbys in the florist aisle.

To force spring bulbs, all you need is a little planning and a cool place to store them. You wouldn’t want to open my refrigerator in January because there’s scant space for anything but a few edible essentials; bulbs take up the lion’s share of the space from Thanksgiving to February. Read more.

How to Plant Bulbs

1. Think about where you want your bulbs to go. Most bulbs prefer a sunny site with well-drained soil. That way the soil won’t stay moist and make the bulb rot.

2. Think about your timing. Spring-flowering bulbs need to be planted in the Fall. It is usually best to plant your spring bulbs after a frost, or after the soil temperatures have cooled down to 40° or 50°F. This way, the bulbs can settle in nicely and start to sprout roots, but they will not create any above-ground growth.

3. Lay out your bulbs. The advantage to laying all of your bulbs out before you plant them is that you remember exactly where each bulb is supposed to go. This way, you can space them out nicely.

4. Think about bloom time. There are three kinds of tulips. Early, mid, and late-season blooming. Try to mix all three around your garden, so that you will always have blooms throughout the season.

5. Dig the holes. Make sure it’s not too deep or too shallow. A hole that is too deep will not allow the bulb to bloom in the spring. One that is too shallow will not be able to support the bloom. Your bulbs will come with instructions about how deep to dig the holes.

6. Spray bulbs with deer repellant before placing them into the holes. This will help ensure that animals wont dig up your bulbs and eat them.

7. Make sure you place your bulbs the right way. The top side should have a point, and the bottom will be fairly flat.

8. After planting your bulbs, place a layer of mulch on top. Make sure the mulch layer is about two inches thick. This helps mitigate any extreme soil temperatures during the winter.

9. Enjoy your bulbs come springtime!

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