Here in New England, we sort of have a thing for flowering bulbs. Maybe it’s the Dutch settlers’ influence in this area, or maybe it’s because most of these plants are super easy to take care of and keep coming back, usually with some pretty showy blooms, year after year. Whatever the reason, fall is the season to plant bulbs—from daffodils and irises to peonies and narcissus—for the coming year. Once the temperature has dropped to between 40 and 50 degrees each night (generally from now until the second week of November), get your gear ready. We show you how it’s done.
What You’ll Need:
- Your choice of bulbs
- Hand shovel
- Hose or watering can
How to Do It:
1. Go for the good stuff. Look for good-quality bulbs at the nursery of garden store; they should be firm and plump with no signs of mold. Larger bulbs usually bloom more than smaller bulbs. Once you’ve picked your favorites, choose planting sites in full sun and well-drained soil. Check the package to make sure you’ve got the right bulbs for the right season; while tulips and daffodils are best planted in the fall, gladiolas and dahlias do better when planted in spring.
2. Show off. For big, showy bunches of flowers, skip the straight rows and plant your bulbs in irregular groupings. (Don’t worry too much if some bulbs end up closer together than recommended on the package.) For tons of color in the same amount of space, we love to layer spring-flowering bulbs like crocus over bigger bulbs like lilies. Simply plant the smaller bulbs over the larger ones. Easy, no?
3. Don’t be shallow. Generally, you’ll want to dig the planting hole about three times deeper than the bulb is tall; your hand shovel is a good guide for planting depth. (Again, check package directions to make sure you don’t have one of the exceptions.)
4. Make a point. Once you’ve dug the hole, identify the pointy end of the bulb; this is the side that will face upward, toward the surface of your garden or bed. Some bulbs are rounder than they are pointy; if this is the case with yours, put the end with the roots coming out facing downward.
5. Mix it up. To encourage the best blooming, mix a bit of compost into each of the bulbs’ planting holes. This goes double if you have heavy clay soil or your garden is sited in an area that retains a lot of moisture.
6. Keep it clean. Prevent nutrient-pilfering weeds by layering 2 to 3 inches of mulch over your planted bulbs.
7. Turn on the waterworks. Immediately after planting, be sure to give your new friends a good watering. If you live in a dry climate of there isn’t much moisture in the forecast over the next week or so, repeat the watering every few days to help the plants establish themselves.
8. Keep out critters. Rodents, especially squirrels and chipmunks, love—and we mean really, really love—freshly planted bulbs and will happily dig them up if given the chance. The mulch layer will help, but you can keep out persistent critters by placing a piece of screen or chicken wire over the bulbs and weighing down the ends with rocks. (Remove the screen or wire as soon as you see the bulbs begin to sprout.)
Tip: If you’ve accidentally bought a spring-planted bulb and live in a climate with cold winters (yes on both counts for us), no worries. Simply plant them in containers and store them in a garage, basement, shed, or any other structure that stays within the 40- to 55-degree range during the winter.