The Garden Club: Plant Now for Spring Garden Color

Planting bulbs in the fall will give your garden welcomed color come springtime.

The weather is turning cool in the area, making it the perfect time to plant spring and early summer flowering bulbs.

Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths come to mind, but alliums and lilies fit the bill, also.

The ideal time to plant spring flowering bulbs is when the soil temperature is around 60 degrees about six inches below the surface. This typically translates into late September in the St. Peter’s area. Bulbs need time in the cool ground to become established before the cold winter weather sets in.

Most home improvement stores, such as  and  have bins of bulbs out now, ready to give your garden a burst of color come springtime.

True bulbs share certain characteristics. The center of flowering bulbs is referred to as the shoot, which is the un-extended flower. The roots emerge from the basal plate, often referred to as the base. The outer layers of the bulb are called the fleshy scales.

Bulbs with a papery covering are tunicate bulbs. Some examples of tunicate bulbs are tulips, daffodils, alliums and hyacinths. Imbricate bulbs do not have a papery covering to protect the fleshy scales. Lily bulbs are a prime example of imbricate bulbs. Extra care should be taken to protect the fleshy scales of imbricate bulbs.

Many bulbs produce additional bulbs that form around the base of the original bulb. These are referred to as offsets. When people refer to bulbs multiplying, this is what they are suggesting.

Soil condition is somewhat important for sustaining bulbs long term. Amend clay soil with compost or peat moss to add organic material and help with drainage. Many bulbs are susceptible to rotting, if left standing in pooled water.

Consider light requirements of the bulb before planting. What the garden looks like now is not what it will look like in the springtime. Most spring flowering bulbs flower before trees are full of foliage, so there is little danger of trees shading the flowers. Care should be taken when planting lilies, however. Many lilies bloom after trees get their leaves and that tends to shade the plant.

The rule of thumb when planting bulbs is to plant them two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. When in doubt about how deep to go, there are typically planting directions on the bulbs packaging.

Flowering bulbs tend to look best when planted in a large grouping. The easiest way to do this is to dig an as big as you would like the grouping (say 2 feet by 2 feet) to the preferred depth. Arrange your bulbs with the root plate down, then backfill the entire area.

Home improvement stores sell specialty bulb diggers, but often times, the bulb digger is no match for the hard, St. Peter’s clay.

Water the bulbs following planting. This allows the dirt to settle around the bulbs, eliminates air pockets and helps prevent the bulbs from shifting in the ground. Give the area a quick application of special bulb fertilizer (12-10-12), and you will be rewarded with color in the springtime.


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