Fall “Bulbing” 101

Glorious spring days would not be the same without a few bright tulips. This seasonal “pop” of color may signify spring, but planting them now in fall is how to ensure a bright future.

There are many types of bulbs that brighten our landscapes throughout the year. This diverse group of plants consists of both hardy bulbs and corms such as tulips or crocus, as well as not so hardy tuberous roots like dahlias. Here in the Willamette Valley, tender bulbs prefer a spring planting. Some people even dig up and store them for extra winter protection. Hardy bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and crocus yield the best results when planted in fall in order to develop a hearty root system, and ensure they meet their cold requirements. Don’t’ forget one of the most common bulbs that nearly everyone has in their kitchen, GARLIC!

Start by selecting healthy bulbs; be sure they are not moldy or mushy. Most packages, or employees at your local garden center, will tell you the amount of sun needed, height, and bloom time (early, mid, or late spring) so you can coordinate plantings. Choose a sunny location and an area with loosened, well-draining soil. Avoid compacted ground, as heavy, wet soil will cause bulbs to rot.

garlic-bulbs

 

The general rule of thumb for planting depth is 3-4 times the height of the bulb. If you are unsure, consult the packaging or your local expert. I like to plant 3, 5, 7 or 9 to a hole about 2-3 inches apart. This creates a nice full planting, as opposed to a bunch of single lonely ones. Once the hole is dug I incorporate an organic soil amendment with a high Phosphorus count (3-8-4), Lane Forest Products Nutri-Rich or some bone meal. Phosphorus aids in root development and flowering. Applying a supplement now makes the nutrients available throughout the growing season. Make sure to set bulbs right side up; sometimes there will be roots or a pointed tip to guide you.

 

 

Tuck your bulbs in gently for the winter and let the showers water them in. A light dusting of compost or mulch will keep them safe until spring. Keep your eyes peeled for squirrels, as they have been known to dig up your prized plantings, especially bulbs in containers.  Chicken wire can be cut to fit the top of the pot to prevent this critter damage. Mark the hole with a stake or tag so you will know where to look for spring sprouts.

Happy Fall Planting!

This article was written by Oregon landscaper Heidi Branchesi of Heidi’s Timely Gardening Tips. Read more of Heidi’s Gardening Tips in our Expert Advice section.