These late week warm days are great to enjoy the warm days of autumn. One timely project for this weekend is to scope out your bulb garden. Next spring when those first flowers emerge, you’ll be glad you spent a Saturday afternoon measuring, planning and purchasing the bulbs.
Do the prep work before you shop
• Determine where you will plant. If this is your first bulb garden, select an area in full sun and ideally, a space that has at least 6 hours of sun per day.
• Measure and calculate how many bulbs you need. Plants need to be spaced so they are pleasing to the eye when they bloom, but they also need to be spaced far enough apart to keep them from competing for water and nutrients.
• Large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils should be spaced 6 inches apart. That is about 5 bulbs per square foot.
• Space smaller bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth or miniature daffodils about 4 inches apart. You will need 8 small bulbs per square foot of garden area.
• Add fertilizer to your shopping list so that it’s on hand when it’s time to plant.
Look for plump, firm bulbs and avoid ones that feel soft and mushy or extremely dry. Within the same variety, select the largest bulbs available as they tend to bloom better than smaller ones.
What deer don’t like
As with most plants, some bulbs are more resistant to deer and other wildlife than others. If deer or elk are in your area, tulips, allium, daffodils and grape hyacinth are great choices to plant.
When to plant
• Bulbs need time in the ground to get their root systems growing before the ground freezes. Waiting too late to plant may steal this growing time. But if bulbs are planted too early, they may sprout which wastes energy they need to sustain them through the winter.
• Planting bulbs by the thermometer is better than planting by the calendar as ideal planting time can vary throughout September or early to mid-October.
• Plant when night-time lows are in the 40- to 50-degree range and soil temperature at planting depth hits 55 degrees. You can test the soil with a soil probe or even a meat thermometer if you can push it 3 to 6 inches deep into the soil.
As good gardeners know, advance preparation fends off later frustration. Do your prep work, keep your eye on the thermometer and you’ll be ready to plant when conditions are prime.