Spring almost requires that gardeners have a few blooming bulbs in front door flower beds, in outdoor pots and on windowsills.
Now that cooler weather and soil are settling in, it is a perfect time to get started on bulb projects. In our area we can plant garlic, allium, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, fritillaria, crocus, squill, snowdrops and others, as late as December and January, as long as the ground is not frozen by then.The prettiest displays are planted in groups rather than in rows. To plant an entire bed, the bulbs can be tossed and planted where they land so there will be clusters of flowers with spaces in between.
Plant bulbs twice their length. For example a 1.5-inch tall bulb is planted in a 3-inch deep hole. Plant Oriental and Asiatic lilies 3-times their depth because they root along the stems. Madonna lily is planted with the top of the bulb at the top of the hole.Be sure that the fat end of the bulb is actually sitting on soil. A planting hole dug with a trowel or shovel can have an empty place at the bottom. Water can accumulate there and rot the bulb over the winter.
Interplant bulbs with biennials, perennials or creeping plants that will cover the fading stems after the flowers fade in the late spring.Plant bulbs practically touching when you plant layers of them in pots or tubs. Put a few inches of soil in the bottom of the container and top with bulbs. Add 2-inches of soil and more bulbs. If you want the entire pot to bloom at once plant all one bulb type.
A six-inch pot will hold 6 tulips and 3 hyacinths. Some gardeners plant pansies or grass seed on the top of the pot to hold the soil and add to the spring display.
Plant bulbs you plan to move in plastic trays or crates buried in the ground. If moles and voles are a problem, plant bulbs in plastic berry baskets, wrap each bulb in plastic mesh or surround the bed with gravel. Entire pots can be sunk into the ground. Moth balls help keep the squirrels away for a few weeks. Scattered pine cones will keep cats out of the beds and pots.
Bulbs planted this year do not need fertilizer. Try to remember to fertilize them in the spring.Gladiolus bloom later than daffodils and tulips but are planted at around the same time. Tall varieties may need support if they are in a windy spot so put stakes in place as you plant. Their cut-flower blooming season can be extended if you plant them in groups a few weeks apart.
Bulbs should be weeded by hand since hoes and cultivators can damage them.If you plan to force bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils in the house, add a piece of horticultural (not barbeque) charcoal to the water to keep the water sweet. The charcoal will help prevent gnats and bulb rot.
Garlic planted now can be tucked in any flower or vegetable bed where the soil can be kept evenly moist. Buy planting garlic rather than the treated grocery store garlic. Plant the largest cloves to get the largest heads next summer.
Shade-loving Spanish bluebells grow to a foot tall with an abundance of blue flowers in the spring. Plant bulbs 3-inches deep. They will return for years if they are kept dry enough over the summer.
Snowdrops, Leucojum aestivum, grow 15-inches tall with a white, bell-shaped flower. A favorite in southern gardens, they can survive clay and shade as well as sand and sun.