It is just about time to plant flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring. Two years ago, I planted dozens of Crocus bulbs, looking forward so much to those first signs of life at the beginning of spring. Unfortunately, my neighborhood squirrels spent the winter digging them up and snacking on them, and I ended up with a total of one crocus bloom in the spring. Since then I have seriously read up on bulb planting.
I found an excellent book, Gardening Wisdom by Douglas Green, which has a great chapter on bulb planting, which I excerpt below:
“There are three rules for growing a good bulb. The first is to make sure there is excellent drainage so the bulb does not suffer from excess water. Over watering bulbs or growing them in heavy or clay soils causes bulbs to fade away. First they come up without their bloom and then they simply disappear from the garden. Often rodents are blamed for this disappearance rather than the true culprits, garden soil or overwatering.
“The very important second rule for growing good bulbs…Because bulbs are underground and out of sight… gardeners forget that they have specific needs for food. Every summer the bulbs have to replace the energy spent producing leaves and flowers, and it is our job as gardeners to give them the necessary nutrients. A generous composting of the garden each spring will allow enough nutrients to reach bulb depth to keep them happy.
“The last and most important rule is to grow the foliage, not the flower. Too many gardeners…cut off the foliage so as to plant annuals in that space or tidy up the mass of flopping leaves left after blooms have finished…Neatness in bulbs does not count; an untidy garden is a productive garden because the bulb leaves are storing energy for next year’s bloom…If the leaves are cut off too early, before they have yellowed and started to fade, then the bulb has not yet finished its regrowth and next year’s bloom will suffer.
“Deep planting (as much as 8″) deters rodents from digging up…the fall planted bulb. The rodents know it is down there; they just cannot seem to muster the effort to dig that deep when other food is more plentiful…If your planting method is a bushel-basket-sized hole, then it is quite easy to lay a hardware cloth (wire mesh) screen over the bulbs before backfilling. If a half-inch mesh is used, the squirrels will not be able to dig through to the bulbs, but next spring the shoots will have no difficulty finding their way to the surface.”
The last thing to remember is sighting: is the flower you’re planting a shade dweller? Sun lover? A little of both? Make sure you’re planting the bulb in the appropriate area – you can usually go by the information supplied on the bulb packet (assuming it’s packaged), or consult a plant encyclopedia like the one you can find here at Backyard Gardener.
Those are the basic guidelines for planting flower bulbs – just make sure the top end (usually the tip) is planted facing up! Follow these basics and you can look forward to lots of glorious blooms next spring.