Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Planting Fall Bulbs

Planting Fall BulbsWhen it comes to planting fall bulbs not only do you get the benefits of gardening you get a mini life-lesson for free because if you prepare well, lay a good foundation and take some time to plan ahead you'll get the rewards down the line.

Just when think you can't take any more winter and you're emerging from cold and darkness, up will pop these pretty little flowers and suddenly life is okay once again.

I know very little about gardening in warm climates but if you live where the ground freezes I can guide you through the simple steps to guarantee some rewards for your labors.

1. Start thinking now. Right now. In Anchorage if you want flowers in the spring you'll need to plant bulbs in the fall by the last week of September at the absolute latest. This is probably a little earlier than for places like Utah, Montana or Minnesota but it never hurts to plan ahead.

2. Decide what you want to plant. This will of course be limited by your climate but even here in zone 2 we can get daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, crocus, alium and even a snow drop or two. I'm not sure how these guys survive the temperatures but somehow even when it's barely reaching 45 degrees during the day you can get the thrill of some green coming up.

Don't forget to take into account the local wildlife--the moose don't like to eat daffodils the way they like tulips and the blooming times--daffodils are one of the first to come up, alium the last.

For some good resources about choosing and planting daffodils see Martha Sewart Living on miniature daffodils and full-sized daffodils and choosing which bulbs to plant. Bnet also has a helpful list of the Top Ten Daffodils to plant and which is better for certain characteristics.

3. Plan where to plant. I like to plant my bulbs where they won't interfere with the emerging perennials, in the strawberry patch or along borders though you can actually plant them in your yard in the grass (this is called "naturalizing") so that they pop up here and there as your spring grass begins to grow. I prefer not to plant in straight lines because first off you'll always have several bulbs that don't produce which messes up your scheme and second little burst of thick color or tiny randomness are much more pleasing that stiff sparse lines.

Wherever you choose to plant, give them six inches between bulbs so they have room to increase and reproduce--at least that's the rule of thumb for daffodils.

4. Plant deep. In general bulbs need to be planted to a depth of three times the length of the bulb--pointed end up. Using a bulb planting tool makes things easier but it isn't necessary (if you're planting a large number it's definitely worth it to buy the tool).

Sprinkle a little bone meal or compost down in the hole before inserting the bulb and pat the dirt back over the top. I like to plant them in groups of six or seven.

5. Mulch. If it gets very cold in your neck of the woods consider a thick layer of mulch to protect the bulbs from fluctuations in weather. It isn't absolutely necessary but it never hurts--just remember to pull off the mulch first thing in the spring when things start warming up to get the ground warming as soon as possible.

6. Don't cut back. After the flowers fade and wither don't cut the leaves back because the energy the leaves store in that last phase of the cycle is important to next year's growth. Instead cut off the flower but leave the leaves to wither naturally on their own.

Some bulbs such as daffodils will reproduce and come back bigger and thicker than ever, some won't--you'll need to be aware of which strains are good for certain traits.

If you're having problems this BBC site has a good trouble-shooting guide to get you through the reasons why you might be running into poor results.

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18 comments:

One Mom said...

Isn't it interesting that critters don't like daffodils! That's all I can grow. Have you heard of bulb insurance? It's actually crushed oyster shell that you sprinkle over your tulip bulbs as you plant them. Apparently animals (like squirrels) don't like the crushed shells and leave the bulbs alone!

Flea said...

Thanks for the reminder! I need to divide my hostas in a couple of weeks.

patty w said...

Thanks for the reminder ! I need to get some new bulbs to plant this fall. They were quite sparse this Spring and we don't want that...we need to see that beautiful color!

karen said...

We can have daffodils here, too! The deer eat everything else. We haven't tried allium, though. Maybe I'll put some in this year to see if it survives the deer.

Lei said...

ok, i didn't know that last bit... very helpful indeed!

Average Jane said...

RE: #6, I always like to braid the leaves to get them out of the way.

verygoodyear said...

Do daffodils grow well in planters? I don't have a yard, just a balcony (apartment building!), but wouldn't mind getting a head-start on spring :]

tjhirst said...

I'm always ready for the season to change that my fall gardening is not as good as my spring, but then I miss what I should have done then. Does that make sense. Maybe this will be the year.

Leslie said...

I can't wait to plant flowers again - it's doesn't work for me here in Arizona.

Oh how I love daffodils! So beautiful!

Shannon said...

Informative post. My grandmother always had beautiful daffodils in her yard every spring. I would love to plant a small patch of them somewhere in my yard to remind me of her. I've never planted them before so, this post will be helpful.

reprehriestless warillever said...

My excuse for the state of our garden is that it is too cold for flowers here. We live in zone 5! I should be able to do at least as well as you are...

ShabbyInTheCity said...

A bar of Coast soap in the garden keeps my critters away! And we have woods all around us.
I do want to plant more bulbs and always forget each year!

Mandy said...

I can't believe its time already! I am starting to can peaches, and now I need to think about planting for the spring!? I know what my family will be doing this weekend!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I don't plant bulbs. I buy them, forget about them, and then find them dead or sprouting in a closet years later.

But the people who lived here planted them. We have tulips that come up in the middle of our grass and gravel driveway.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

The bulbs are being pushed outside home and gardening centers in Minnesota right now. The time for planting is close at hand.

But I have no yard right now. Which leads me to wonder: Could I plant bulbs in a container?

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Here in CA, I see lots of lawns with beautiful bulbs, but I wonder if they plant every year...because one problem we have is that it doesn't get really cold, so a lot of the bulbs mold. The solution is to dig them up every year and put them in the freezer. Like that's going to happen. Sigh.

Sonja said...

ooh la la! I LOVE flowering bulbs! Thanks for the tips. :) Can't wait for spring.

kkryno said...

Thank you for these helpful tips. Having moved here from New Mexico via Valdez, I'm having to re-learn everything once again. I have an assortment of bulbs from Alaska Mill & Feed, now just a bar of Coast Soap; and I'm in buisiness. Who knows? I may get this AK gardening thang down yet!