It’s the middle of fall. Leaves will be turning those magnificent colors very soon and providing nature’s patchwork quilt on the ground. Craft shows and fall festivals are on many of our calendars. Yetmany gardeners think of this time of the year as bulb planting season. Gardening, like so many things in life, requires thinking ahead. In this case, two seasons ahead. A colorful spring landscape does not happen by chance. Now is the time to survey the landscape and determine what areas can be enhanced by the addition of spring blooms.
For gardening purposes, the term bulb includes other bulb-like structures such as: corms, tubers, tuberous roots, and rhizomes. Bulbs are classified as either hardy or tender. Hardy bulbs are typically planted in late October or early November and can tolerate cold weather. Tender bulbs are planted in the spring, after the last frost, and must be removed from the ground before cold weather. I will focus on spring blooming hardy varieties.
Examples of hardy bulbs are tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and crocus. Tulips come in many colors and are often treated as annuals due to typical lack of extended cold periods in our area. Daffodils colors are white, yellow, pink, and peach. Daffodils bloom at different times in the spring depending on variety. Hyacinths produce one spike covered with numerous tiny but fragrant blooms. Hyacinths can be found in all colors. The most common example of a hardy corm is crocus. Crocus blooms early in spring and often have been photographed in the snow.
Bulbs can be purchased by Internet or catalog orders as well as from local retailers and garden centers. Choose bulbs that are plump and firm and free of mold. Think about what the purpose of the bulbs will be before you purchase. Large bulbs are typically planted as a specimen where smaller bulbs are planted for groupings or even long waves of blooms. Bulbs can be stored in a cool, dry place between 60 and 65 degrees if you purchased prior to planting time.
Select planting sites with well-drained soil and around eight hours of direct sunlight. Bulbs do not tolerate wet soils, so if you have heavy clay soils, loosening the soil and amending with compost will be necessary. Raised beds are also an option. Read the directions for the type of bulb planted for planting depth. A good practice: the depth of the bulb should be two to three times the diameter of the bulb. Add fertilizer specifically for bulbs at planting time. Cover the bulbs with two to three inches of mulch.
Because it will be a while before the bulbs show themselves, place a plant marking stake next to the bulb planting area. Label the stake with the name of the bulb with a permanent marker. Buy enough stakes now so you can use them to identify seeds planted next spring in the vegetable garden; that is another example of thinking ahead.