Written by Chris Campbell
Our supply of spring-blooming bulbs arrived in Nebraska, direct from Holland, just before Labor Day weekend. New clusters of bulbs are perfect for areas that need bright color in the early spring months or you can add new bulbs to an existing group of bulbs. Also, October is a good time to move spring-blooming bulbs in the northern hardiness zones of the US, if you want to change your landscape. If you live in the southern climate zones, contact your local garden center for bulb planting instructions.
Bulbs need several weeks in the ground to get the root systems growing before the ground freezes. However, don’t plant them too early! If the soil is too warm, new bulbs will sprout, which depletes the stored energy that is needed to get through the winter. You can plant bulbs as long as the soil is soft enough to dig a hole.
The trick to growing large, healthy flowering bulbs is to properly prepare the soil. Amending the area with compost loosens the soil and keeps bulbs from rotting in cool weather.
Here are a few hints for success:
- Select healthy bulbs. Avoid ones that are dry, withered, spongy or moldy.
- Choose a good location. Most flowering bulbs do best in full sun, which can be most anywhere in the spring before trees and shrubs leave out.
- Plant bulbs with the pointed side up, which is the stem.
- Plant bulbs to a depth about three-times their diameter.
- Mix some bone meal, super-phosphate or similar bulb fertilizer in the bottom of the hole at planting time. This aids in strong root growth.
- If squirrels, mice, rabbits or other rodents tend to eat your bulbs, try sprinkling red pepper in the planting hole. Also, you can protect planted bulbs with a barrier made from chicken wire or hardware cloth.
- Replace the soil on top of the bulbs and water after planting to help the area settle and close air pockets. During fall and winter, don’t water bulbs unless it is extremely dry. Too much moisture will cause bulbs to rot.
- Mark your bulb areas! It’s easy to forget where you’ve planted bulbs. Mark the areas so that you won’t disturb them or accidentally dig them up in the spring.
It might be a little more work in the fall, but you will be rewarded next spring with beautiful early season color!