I can’t tell you how many times I have had customers tell me that they meant to plant bulbs last year but didn’t, either because they just forgot, ran out of time, or were too confused by all of the information on the internet about growing these plants. Trying to figure out varieties that will actually thrive in our climate, the trouble of attempting to decipher how deep to plant the bulbs, which side of the bulb to plant up, what to use for fertilizer, how to keep the squirrels and rabbits away, and oh yes – what the plants are actually going to look like when they bloom (!) seems to be a task better suited to Jedi’s and psychics than to the average time-pressed gardener.
Well the nursery industry has been listening and has finally introduced a method of planting that even the most novice gardener can wrap their mind around. Using the motto “Dig, Drop, Done,” professionals in the bulb propagation industry have made it easy for all of us who love the floriferous and often exotic display that bulbs feature: in less time than it takes to floss your teeth, you too can become an expert in bulb planting! Here is just about everything you need to know to plant bulbs like a pro:
Plant summer-flowering bulbs in the spring. Plant spring-flowering bulbs in the fall. If it is warm enough for you to dig into the soil with your bare hands, it is warm enough for the bulbs to be planted.
The depth of the planting hole should be 4-6 inches deep for small bulbs and 6-8 inches deep for large bulbs. You should be able to hold a small bulb in your hand with your middle finger and thumb touching together. It should take both hands to wrap around a large bulb.
Always plant bulbs with the pointy side up (pointing up). If you can’t tell, look for little pimple-like bumps and/or hair on one side of the bulb (it will also usually be a bit flattened on this side); plant the bumpy/ hairy side facing down.
Use bone meal every single time you plant bulbs. All bulbs and bare root plants require ample calcium and phosphorous; bone meal contains both in abundance.
If herbivores (squirrels, rabbits, and deer, for example) like to frequent your yard, use either blood meal or garlic-based animal repellents to scare them off. If carnivores (your dog, the neighbor’s cat, etc.) like to dig around your place, let them know they are unwelcome by applying capsicum pepper or ketones (ie. Get Off My Garden spray/gel) around your decorative plants and chicken wire around your edible plants.
Designing with bulbs is easy: pick a bloom color, pick a finished size, pick a bloom time and exposure, and then pick a bulb based on these parameters. As an example, want a very showy, tall flower in purple that blooms in a sunny location from late spring through to summer? Pick a gigantic ornamental onion: growing over 3ft tall, offering up huge blooms several inches across in the most beautiful shade of mauve, and blooming for several weeks during the growing season, this beauty is sure to wow everyone that gets a glimpse of it.
Not all bulbs are created equal: size matters. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the bloom, no exceptions. Large bulbs should be started indoors in ice cream buckets or whatever you have kicking around the house that is larger than a soup bowl. Always use potting soil to start plants inside.
Planting bulbs is easy and fun! A quick stop into your local nursery is a great way to get your spring spider senses tingling, with dozens of varieties of gorgeous bulbs and bare root plants coming in daily. Talk to your local nursery professional, check out the Dig Drop Done website (digdropdone.com), and leaf through any gardening magazines you find. Some truths in life are universal: gladiola bulbs make you glad, dahlias should be admired daily, and ornamental onions make your eyes water…with delight! Next week stay tuned for my top picks for fabulous, Chinook-tolerant, summer-flowering bulbs!