It’s fall, and that means it’s time to get spring flowering bulbs planted. So I can enjoy blooms and pops of color from early spring all the way up to the start of summer, I use a broad array of bulb species and varieties. In this video, I demonstrate several ways to plant bulbs and what to keep in mind as you do.
Among the many types of bulbs I am planting are snowdrops, which will be the first to come up in spring, and alliums, which are in the same family as onions and garlic and will put on a fantastic show to end the season with big spherical purple flowers on top of long stems. Of course, I also have narcissus, daffodils and all the other bulbs you’d expect.
If you live in North America, fall is the general window of opportunity for planting spring-flowering bulbs. For those in the northern states down to the central states, the best time is between September and November. From the central states and further south, October to January is ideal.
I live in the Atlanta area of Georgia, in zone 7b. November is the perfect bulb planting time for here. A cool day with slightly moist soil is what I watch for.
Planting at the proper depth is especially important when it comes to bulbs. The general rule is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. So if a bulb is 2 inches tall, dig a hole that is between 4 and 6 inches deep.
That same rule applies to the smallest of bulbs, including the tiny snowdrop bulbs that can be less than an inch tall.
If bulbs sit in soggy soil they will rot, so it’s important to amend soil that has poor drainage. Adding organic matter to soil will help heavy clay soil drain better and will also help quick-draining sandy soil retain moisture. You really can’t go wrong by adding organic matter, particularly finished compost.
My bulb planting bed has red clay soil, which is good for holding nutrients but slow to drain. The soil is in much better shape than it was before I started amending it because I continue to add organic matter each year. If you don’t have compost you can add shredded leaves — use whatever organic material that is readily available to you.
Bulbs are pretty forgiving when it comes to spacing. The small bulbs will perform their best with about 2 to 4 inches of space between them, and the large bulbs like 4 to 6 inches. There are a few different spacing techniques you can try.
If you are going for a naturalistic look, you can just take your bulbs and toss them out onto your soil bed and plant them wherever they land. You can do this with a uniform batch of bulbs or a mix of different bulb varieties.
For an organized look, you can arrange the bulbs exactly where you want them and at the recommended spacing, with one bulb per hole.
If you are going for a succession of blooms, you may want to try option three, which is to share the planting holes. Dig one hole and layer in bulbs, small and large.
For a real burst of concentrated color, plant five to seven bulbs of the same variety closely together but in separate holes.
The fastest and easiest way to make holes for planting bulbs is to use a bulb auger, which attaches to a power drill. You make sure your battery is fully charged — and it doesn’t hurt to have a backup battery.
Use the auger to dig to the depth the bulbs prefer, and once the bulbs are in place — root end down and pointed tip up — backfill the holes using the soil you just dug up.
Now that your bulbs are planted and the holes are backfilled, it’s time for the finishing touches. I like to go over the area with a rake to make sure everything is covered up nicely. I’ll also add a layer of organic mulch to protect the bulbs from rapid temperature changes and to feed the soil, and then water it all in.
If you are worried about foraging critters — namely, squirrels — get a roll of chicken wire, lay it out over the planting area and pin it down. Squirrels love to dig around in freshly disturbed soil, but the chicken wire will stop them from reaching the bulbs.
Leave the chicken wire barrier down until the bulbs have had time to settle in and establish roots. If you forget to remove the chicken wire before the foliage comes up in spring, don’t worry. The foliage will grow right through it, no problem.
And that’s it! You are good to go, and you have a lot to look forward to come springtime.
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