The Charmed Garden

From Planning to Planting, and from Harvest to Table.

A How-To and Why-To Guide to Planting Your Spring Bulbs

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WHY – TO

Why? Because it’s easy.  Really.  Bulbs are very easy to grow.  Perennials grown by seed can take a lot of TLC and a very long time for you to get a return on your investment.  You can basically plunk a bulb in the soil and go about celebrating all your favorite holidays, do some cross country skiing in January, lament about Chicago weather in March, and completely forget you planted anything in the fall until VOILA!  Color pops through the snow complimenting you on your fab job in the garden in October and November.

Fall is the time to plant Spring Bulbs, when the temps have been in the 60’s  in the day and in the 40’s in the evening, cooling off the soil to around 60 degrees.  For us in Zone 5, that’s usually early  October. However, this Fall we’ve had a record breaking heat wave in September, delaying the cooling of the soil.  We’ve finally had a good soaking rain, which has been long over due.  Today it’s absolutely gorgeous out. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the temps are cool, and the soil is no longer blowing away with the wind.

 

DAFFODILS

HOW – TO

FIRSTPick your spot.  Most bulbs prefer full sun to part shade.  You can plant bulbs under deciduous trees and some bushes that are “limbed up”, (they’re bottom btanches are trimmed to shape the bush to look like a small tree).  When planting under trees and bushes  with heavy roots, do not till the soil to prepare the bed for the bulbs. This will damage the roots.  Carefully dig between the roots to plant the bulbs. If you chose to dig under large trees with heavy roots, pick a good Podcast because you will be there awhile AND chose Scilla, Crocus, Winter Aconite, or Snowdrops because they do better than other bulbs when planted under trees with heavy root competition.

Here are some photos of spring bulbs in bloom under trees and bushes.

SECOND: Pick your colors. You can mass plant in a single color for a visual impact or mix and match your colors. For example – Mix Different Colors , plant a variety of perky Daffodils in White, Peach and White, Yellow, Yellow and Orange all in the same bed, or plant a rainbow of different colors of Tulips.  Combine Complimentary Colors,  plant the Thalia all white Daffodil with Grape Hyacinth. Both Bloom together, with the dense purple Hyacinth blooming at the feet of the taller white Daffodil.  Beautiful!  Plant the quintessential spring colors of cream, soft-pink and yellow Tulips. Really the sky’s the limit in color combinations.

To plan for continuous color from early spring through late spring, I recommend planting Early, Mid and Late Spring bulbs, which are marked just like that on the bulb packages.  You could plant similar colors in the same plant, for example try three golden daffodils: ‘Arctic Gold’, which starts in early to mid-spring, ‘Primeur’, which blooms in mid spring, and ‘Pay Day’, which blooms mid- to late spring.

THIRD:  Planting.   Dig your hole 2-3 times as deep as your bulb is tall. Daffodils are more sensitive to proper planting depth than other bulbs. Larger bulbs are usually 6-8 inches deep, such as Tulips and Daffodils, whereas smaller bulbs like Crocus and Glory-of-the-Snow should be planted 3-4 inches deep.

If I have successfully put the bug in your ear to plant more  type of bulb then you are now probably wondering how to do to this.  Place your biggest bulbs in first adding an inch or so of compost between the layers of bulbs. They can be packed in quite closely, providing they don’t touch.  You can layer the early,  mid and late season bulbs on top of each other the same way, or spread them out throughout your garden bed.

If you don’t have great soil, or you are digging in a new bed, you’ll need to add a little slow release fertilizer or bone meal.  Roughly one small hand full of fertilizer for 10-12 bulbs. Use a 5-10-5 or 5-10-10. The number combination is on the front of the fertilizer bag. If you can’t find this, add bone meal which is readily available this time of year.  Add a small handful of fertilizer per 10-12 bulbs.  Decades ago when I planted my first bulbs, the directions on the bag were to put the fertilizer in the hole and bulb on top of that. DO NOT DO THIS.  Mix the fertilizer in with the soil,  otherwise it can cause damage to the bulb and the forming roots.  If you don’t have beautiful black soil, add some organic compost (i.e. mushroom compost) to enrich the soil of the entire bed.

I’ve added two short and sweet videos showing how to plant Crocus and Daffodils. These were  done last November at my Cousins’ home in Skokie, also just outside of Chicago, but North. Their Crocus bloomed beautifully in early Spring. Their Daffodils were eaten by the Squirrels.  Little Buggers thought I planted a feast just for them.

If you have bulbs that you have wanted to move, make sure to wait till next year. You can dig and move or divide spring bulbs after foliage has turned yellowed and then replant them immediately.

Even if you’ve never planted anything by seed, you can be successful with bulbs. They’re probably the easiest most succesful plant you can grow in your garden, other than a Sedum, of course.  🙂

 

Author: Laurine M. Byrne

I received my certification as a Landscape Designer from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and I received my horticulture education through classes at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois and through the master gardener program at Univ of Illinois Extension. In my designs, I love mixing veggies and herbs with native perennials and flowering bushes as you can see from the pictures of my own yard. I love creating gardens for people who like to garden, not just installing traditional landscaping, but actually creating gardens that the homeowner connects to personally. I love that my clients who thought they couldn't grow anything now have green thumbs, because all it takes is the right plant in the right site. And I really love that my clients become my friends in the process of creating their gardens.

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