Fall has barely started and winter is knocking at the door. It won’t be long and we’ll be bundled up against the cold weather counting the days until spring. One of the best ways to realize that winter is behind us is to look out one day and see the first daffodil, nodding it’s yellow head at us. It’s a perfect way to lift our spirits after a long colorless season. Now is the time to plan for that early spring experience and you can hardly goof up with bulbs. They are little plants, not seeds, and they have flowers inside just waiting to erupt. Unless they get over watered and rot, spring color is almost guaranteed.
Bulbs are everywhere right now from garden centers to grocery stores. Bulb catalogs keep arriving in my mailbox, tempting me with almost any color and shape of spring flower imaginable.
Here are some suggestions for planting bulbs that will brighten your first days of spring.
Spring-flowering bulbs require at least 6-8 weeks of cool temperatures to start the process that makes them flower. Plant now before the ground freezes. The soil is still warm enough to start root development.
The pointed end goes up. The bulb sits on its fat end. Sound familiar?
The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower. Look for big, firm bulbs.
Plant in groups. This creates a block of color that gives you more bang for your buck. It will look like you planted a lot more bulbs than you did. No garden? Use containers.
To keep squirrels out, don’t advertise your planting. Clean up the papery bulb covers and other bulb scented bits when planting. Try placing old window screens over the newly planted bulbs. They weigh enough to foil the squirrels yet allow air circulation and water to get through. Once the ground has frozen, you can remove the screens. Others cover with lattice panels, plant in screen cages or use commercial repellents, but rain washes that away. I read that White House gardeners put up six peanut filled feeding boxes and reduced squirrel damage on bulb beds by 95%, so that might be a consideration.
Bulbs don’t need fertilizer the first year because they already carry a season’s supply of food. After the first year, apply a slow release bulb food in the spring, as flowers fade. After bloom, cut off the flower stalk but allow the leaves to yellow for about eight weeks before removal.
Mulch after the ground is frozen. Mulch is used to regulate the soil temperature so the bulbs don’t get pushed out by repeated freezing and thawing.
Spring weather can be erratic. If your bulbs begin to grow and we get a cold snap, don’t worry, bulbs can usually take what Mother Nature dishes out. Flower petals may be damaged, but the green leaves and the bulbs themselves, won’t be harmed by cold weather.
Plant now, it’s not too soon to welcome spring!