Why Plant Quality, Hardy Bulbs in the Fall?
It’s hard to think about spring when we are still thoroughly enjoying the beauty of Autumn, but for us Northern gardeners, this is the best time to plant spring-blooming bulbs! Planting bulbs now allows them time to root in and ready themselves for the colorful spring show! When you’ve decided you want to plant, it’s important to consider where you buy your bulbs as high-quality bulbs really do outperform the cheaper varieties you might find at big-box stores or large home-improvement chains. Sargent’s has a wonderful selection of high-quality flower bulbs and as well as a couple of types of hard-neck garlic. Because really, those cheaper ones may not sprout, aren’t as disease-resistant, may not flower, and don’t often come back year after year! So get off to a good start with quality bulbs!
What are Hardy bulbs?
Hardy bulbs or spring-flowering bulbs require a cold period to break their dormancy and begin spring flower development, which means planting them in the fall is the best option. Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, lilies can be planted in the fall and then left in their beds and allowed to grow and flower year after year. These bulbs are really quite easy to work with, require minimal care when planted properly, and should pop up every spring with a wonderful show of color!
Little Purple Globe on a stick! Allium bulbs are a whimsical way to punch up the interest in your garden!
Consider the Location
Come spring, hardy bulbs will need warmth and bright light to trigger proper growth. So, you’ll want to choose locations that are sheltered from damaging winds and avoid low-lying areas where water may pool or frost may collect to avoid damaging tender plants. Also, a location near a building foundation, or on the southern side of a building, might warm up earlier than other spots, so you may see flowers there blooming earlier. Mulching well in these areas can help slow a sudden warmup and lessen the likelihood that plants will bloom too early and thus suffer cold damage as a result. You don’t have to worry about the shade of a deciduous tree and shrub shade for early bloomers, like crocus, tulips, and daffodils, because those bulbs are done blooming by the time leaves become dense enough to produce shade.
Pick a sunny location!
Getting the Right Light
Bulbs are like little battery packs, storing the energy needed to put down roots, and grow leaves and flowers. They need ample light for spring growth, but they also need it long after flowering! After flowering, is when leaves generate the most energy (through photosynthesis, which requires light) and that energy is stored in the bulb structure for the following year. The more light that bulbs receive, the more energy they generate and the more likely they are to bloom year after year.
Bulbs grow best in rich, well-drained soil, which means don’t plant in areas with standing water, prepare planting sites by removing debris such as rocks, sticks, matted roots, etc. and to work organic matter such as Sargent’s cotton-burr compost or shredded leaf mulch into the planting area. This organic material helps to amend the soil, creating a good growing environment for bulbs.
The planting depth and spacing depend on the individual bulb. If packaged, there should be planting depth instructions included, but generally, you want to plant bulbs two to three times deeper than their diameter. (This will vary with the type of soil.) The U of M Extension office suggests the following guidelines for planting:
- With light, sandy soils, plant 1 or 2 inches deeper, and on heavier clay soils, set the bulbs an inch or two shallow.
- With the pointed end facing up, set the bulb in the prepared soil so that the base is resting at the appropriate depth.
- Once the bulbs are all placed, cover with half of the soil and thoroughly soak the area with water.
- Add the remaining soil and rake smooth to level the surface of the bed.
- Water and cover the soil surface with 2-3″ of leaf mulch, wood mulch, or clean (seedless) straw to help hold in moisture and help soil temperatures to drop/raise more gradually as the seasons change.
Image Source: The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Many people we talk to have concerns about the effect wildlife may have on their bulb-planting success. Sometimes this is because of past failed attempts at planting bulbs only to have them devoured by squirrels, deer, or rabbits, or it’s because those animals eat up a lot of their other plants and they’re just worried…Well, if you’re worried about wildlife snacking on your bulbs, you can spray the bulbs directly with Liquid Fence, let dry, and then plant! Combining that with regular applications of liquid fence or another repellant should make the deer, rabbits, and squirrels think twice about noshing on your tulips…stay away! If you want to go fully militant on the critters, lay a piece of chicken wire flat over the planted areas and anchor with U-shaped staples normally used with landscape fabric. Cover the wire with mulch. The wire will make digging up the bulbs difficult and the bulbs will easily grow through the wire holes.
Additional tips for hardy bulbs:
- If fall and/or spring are dry with less than normal rainfall, and the soil becomes dry, water bulbs until the soil is saturated.
- Be sure to label what you planted and where to prevent digging up bulbs by accident during your spring garden work.
Sargent’s has all of the repellants you need as well as bulbs, soil, fertilizer, garden tools, and mulch–really everything you’ll need for a project like this!