Melanie Lee is a farmer and gardener living in Maine. She is the author of In Pursuit of Maine, a blog dedicated to the natural beauty of the state of Maine.
Ahhh, fall at last. It has been a wonderful year. You worked hard in your garden, and it showed. You had beautiful color from your many flowers, scrumptious vegetables to eat, and appreciative neighbors who loved the gift of seeing a beautiful garden every day. It’s time to put the garden to bed now. Almost. There’s just one last thing, and it’s one of the most important things to do. It’s time to plant your fall bulbs. I know you’re tired and you’ve worked hard and you deserve a rest. Believe me, I understand, but if you put this last bit of effort in now, you will be rewarded tenfold with a wonderful display come springtime.
Two of my favorite bulbs are Tulips and Daffodils. There are dozens of varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes of these bulbs. Take your time deciding which bulbs to buy. Decide what kind of effect you want to create. If you want the flowers to complement one another, then choose bulbs that will flower at about the same time, and choose colors that go well together. For example, the bright yellow color of Daffodils is stunning alongside deep purple Tulips. If you want to prolong your spring garden, then choose bulbs that flower at different times. For example, just as the yellow daffodils are starting to decline, turn the volume up with brilliant red Tulips and let them steal the show!
Whatever you decide, there are a few rules to remember. First, never plant bulbs in a straight line. They don’t have enough foliage to complement their flowers, and they end up looking too contrived and sparse. Always plant bulbs in groups of 12, if you have the space, in a sunny well-drained location. These groups should be of the same type of bulb, that is, 12 daffodils, then 12 tulips, then 12 daffodils, etc. Plant the bulbs in a somewhat circular pattern, but don’t be too stringent about this. Again, you don’t want a contrived look. You want a natural look. When they are planted together, they appear to have more foliage, and that really draws the eye to your garden. Large clumps of color and greenery are very welcome after a long winter.
Plant your bulbs a few weeks before the ground freezes. People often plant too soon and then end up with fall growth that compromises the bulb’s quality. Plant with the point upward and the tiny roots downward. You want a minimum of twice as much soil on top of the bulb as the bulb measurement itself. For example, if your bulb measures two inches, you want a hole at least six inches deep--two inches for the bulb itself and four inches of soil on top. Bulbs planted deeper are hardier. You can dig a large hole and place all the bulbs at once, or you can use a bulb planting tool and just dig individual holes. I prefer this latter method because I feel that it helps to deter hungry squirrels. They like fresh loose soil that they can easily dig into, and a large freshly dug hole is just too tempting. Space the bulbs at least four to six inches apart because eventually they will multiply and will need room.
Really, that’s all there is to it. I know you’re tired now, but if you take just a couple of hours this fall to plant bulbs, your reward in the springtime will seem astronomical, especially after a long winter when the eyes are so hungry for color.