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» Bulb Planting Tips
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Bulb Planting

Our world would be a much happier place if we all planted spring flowering bulbs this autumn. And more of us would do it if planting them were a lot of fun. However, if your timing is off, you have to brave the cold winds, dig many little holes, add the right amount of fertilizer, and plant the bulbs at the proper depth. Moreover, unlike flowering annuals, you have to wait months to reap the colorful, flower rewards. While its hard work, the rewards are really great. Erruptions of color bursting forth from dreary ground warm the heart and provide the strewgnth to plant on a bone-chilling spring day.

Plant away - Go out and do your part for your friends, neighbors and your yard, plant some spring flowering bulbs. There is no need to plant a million of them ó a few daffodils and tulips will do for a start. But if you get an inspiration while bulb shopping, and I guarantee you will, donít be afraid to try something new.

Camassia, also called Indian hyacinth, a North American native, produces tall spikes of 1-inch violet flowers above handsome straplike foliage in May. Two years ago, a friend of mine planted them in the ground cover in a part-shade area of her city garden, and they gave her an outstanding repeat performance again this past spring.

Tulips, especially the fancy varieties, donít rebloom the following season, so many gardeners treat them as annuals. Their large, richly colored blooms make them the stars of the show in the spring garden, so I plant them where the annuals grace the garden in summer and when their time has passed, the spent bulbs go in the compost pile.

ďIf you have sandy soil and a sunny spot thatís very dry in summer, thatís the place to perennialize tulips,Ē says heirloom bulb guru Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens.ďChoose antique tulips, they were bred to perennialize, and they thrive on neglect.Ē Spring bulbs are best planted in bunches so they look like bouquets when in bloom. Plant in a circle or a square and plunk a bulb or two in the middle. Tulips planted in straight rows look like little soldiers standing at attention. To extend the season of bloom, I plant both early and late-blooming varieties.

Here are tips to make planting easier:
  1. For years, we were told to add bone meal or bulb fertilizer to the hole when planting. But today that protocol is subject to debate. Many renowed gardeners say that there is no need to add fertilizer to each planting hole. Bulbs contain all the nutrients they need to grow and bloom the first year, so they donít need to be fertilized when planted. Also, critters above and below the ground are attracted to bone meal, so make your life easier and pass on this step.

  2. However, adding organic material at planting time is good for the soil and thatís good for the bulbs, so is mulching with shredded leaves after planting. Fertilize perennial bulbs in fall by broadcasting a slow release fertilizer on the soil surface.

  3. Getting bulbs planted at the proper depth makes a lot of gardeners nuts, especially folks who are compelled to do everything by the books. Experts tell us bulbs should be planted at a depth of 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb.

  4. Renowned Dutch garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet, consultant for Tulip World, recommends deep planting. Many other gardeners follow this school of thought. For a quick measuring guide, use a stick marked at three times the height of the bulbs as a depth gauge. That way, if your hole depth is off a bit, it wonít matter and you can rest easy at night knowing you did the right thing. Use your pointer finger as a quick measuring guide. From the tip to the first knuckle it measures 2 inches, and from the tip to the second knuckle it measures 4 inches.

  5. Worried you didnít plant them deep enough? Just pile on an inch or more of leaf mulch and soil and create a raised bed. For creative ideas and help coordinating colors, designing bulb gardens and selecting the best bulbs for your planting site, check out the posting board at Roger's Gardens.
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