How To: Planting Fall Bulbs

What are fall bulbs?

Fall bulbs such as tulips, narcissus, daffodils and hyacinth are plant species that need to be planted in the ground in the fall.  They require a cold period of a minimum of 6 weeks to form roots. They will bloom at different times in the spring depending on variety, warmth and lighting conditions.

When should I plant fall bulbs?

Fall bulbs are best planted before the first hard frost.  It should be after the temperature stays below 65 degrees F during the day. This is typically from late September to early November in Michigan.

What should I look for when I am picking out fall bulbs?

Look for bulbs that are firm. If bulbs are mushy, they will rot. The larger the bulb, the more blooms you will get and the larger they will be. Bulbs will grow larger in the ground after blooming. Choose a variety of early, mid and late blooming bulbs to ensure a long show of color.

How do I plant?

Condition the soil by adding 3” of peat moss and 1” of manure into your bed.  Work it into a depth of 12” deep.  Dig a hole as deep as instructed on the package and place bulbs with the pointed side up. They can be planted in individual holes or in a large hole as a group. Generally, you want to plant the bulb 2 to 3 times deeper than the diameter of the bulb.  Place the bulbs 1” apart. Cover gently with the soil and pat the ground gently.  Water the planted area thoroughly.

Where should I plant my fall bulbs?

Spring flowering bulbs thrive in partial to full sun. Remember to take into account that the trees will not be leafed out yet when the tulips emerge.  Good drainage is important, so avoid low lying, soggy areas.

What kind of fertilizer should I use?

Fertilizer is not necessary, but performance will be increased if you add bone meal or bulb booster when you plant.  Use 1 tablespoon per bulb.

How do I keep squirrels from digging up my bulbs?

Soak the bulbs in Plantskydd before planting.  It is an excellent repellent developed in Sweden.  You can also sprinkle blood meal in the holes before you plant the bulbs.  Disguising the area with leaves or mulch after you plant, can possibly fool the squirrels.  This will also help protect the bulbs from harsh winter temperatures.

What do I do after the bulbs have finished blooming in the spring?

Let the leaves die down naturally, and do not cut them off.  After the bulbs have bloomed, it is important to let them rest and gather nutrients from the soil so they can bloom again next year.

What is more welcoming than the promise of a colorful spring garden?  Bulb planting is a simple garden activity, even for the novice gardener.  With some attention to detail and proper timing, you can ensure that your garden sprouts up as soon as the spring thaw arrives.

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