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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Plant bulbs now for blooming spring fun

KELLY HEIDBREDER
BLADE GARDEN COLUMNIST

While you are rummaging around in the garden shed looking for the rake, grab your small trowel and dibble. You will need them when you plant your bulbs.

Bulbs show off their beauty in the spring, but it is only because we have spent hours crawling around in the garden beds in the fall. Now is the perfect time to plant the bulbs.

Make a map

If you don’t have any bulbs in your garden, then start by making a map. If you have followed my advice in the past, you have a basic landscape drawing of your entire yard tucked inside your garden journal. Use this basic plan to help you plan the layer just intended for your bulbs.

Since your bulbs come up early in the season, they can be planted in the front of and around perennials in your flowerbeds and even on top of later bloomers like hosta. This can be a tricky job so it is a good idea to draw a plan or mark the areas that are planted with bulbs.

Here’s one easy bulb, plant combination. Plant a large area of daffodils or tulips for the spring wow-factor. Then in the spring after the threat of frost, plant annuals such as pansies or violas on top. This combination turns out great because the bulbs sprout and bloom before the annuals come on strong. Once the bulb blooms fade, the annuals will take over and also hide the withering foliage the bulbs leave behind.

As the foliage starts to wither, it restores energy to the roots for next spring. Plus, the shallow roots of the annuals won’t compete with the bulbs for nutrition.

Blooming problems

If your blooming bulbs didn’t do a whole lot of blooming last season, you need to do some investigating. Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are a bit touchy about having some room to roam. Their blooms will start to dwindle if they don’t have space to grow. If they get too tight, they don’t get enough nutrition from the soil and they can even be shaded from the sun because of overcrowding.

If your tulips or hyacinths have been in the same spot for more than three years, you might need to toss them out and start over. Lilies and iris struggle if they are under-fertilized or are planted too deep.

Layer cake

Not all bulbs are created equal. Some are tiny, while others can be as big as a softball. There is a general rule that you plant the bulb two to three times as deep as the bulb is wide. So, if your bulb is an inch wide, you should plant it three inches deep.

This growing trait is very handy for creating a layer cake made with soil and flower bulbs. Usually tulips are buried about eight inches deep, daffodil at seven inches, dutch hyacinth five inches deep, crocus and daffodils are near the surface at about three inches. Iris are so close to the top that you can just toss a few handfuls of topsoil on their rhizomes and they will grow.

You can dig up a large area and start with the largest bulbs at the bottom. Sprinkle them with a light dusting of bone meal for winter nourishment, then cover them with soil. Now, you can add a second layer of smaller bulbs. Continue these layers until you are at the top of the soil. Mark the spot so you don’t accidentally dig them up in the spring.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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