Planting Bulbs


A host of... pink daffodils.

When we plant bulbs, it is unlike almost anything else we do in the garden, in that we cannot see our results and only will see them in the future.  We have no guarantees, just a hope that somehow they (and we) will survive the winter and then miraculously, when we need that boost the most, there they are, in their astonishing, life affirming glory.

In order to see them next spring, we have to worry first about the mundane.  I ordered my bulbs back in July and August and had them shipped to me this past week.  I try to order bulbs that are rodent resistant because we have a serious problem with mice/voles believing that I have laid a feast especially for them.  I make an exception for Colorblend’s exceptional assortment of parrot tulips, which are undeniably gorgeous.  Mostly,  I ordered daffodils, scilla siberica and alliums.

All of the bulbs arrived from Colorblends last week in two large crates, ready to be planted.  Once I receive them I sort them into buckets in the mix that I desire… usually 1/4 of each variety of daffodil and 1/4 alliums.  For smaller bulbs, as below, the bucket is a great way to keep track of the little things and how many you’ve used.


Bulbs, sorted.

Scilla siberica, above, are ready for planting along the front walkway.  In the bucket is a dibber for folks who have more patience and want to plant one at a time.  Basically, you insert it in the ground, and drop a single bulb in the hole.  This only works with smaller bulbs.  I plant the dibber bulbs about the depth of one finger– about three inches.


"Dibbing" a hole.

For larger bulbs that I plant one at a time, I dig a hole with a narrow transplanting spade, as I did with the Globemaster Alliums below.  I try to plant these the depth of a hand (which on me is about seven inches).


Planting big bulbs in an existing bed with a transplant spade.


Allium Globemaster bulb

For planting more than one bulb at a time, I dig a big hole and plant them all– generally dig as deep as the regular spade will go, so about 8-10 inches, and plant the bulbs in the hole.  I try to use odd numbers and then I space them out as evenly spaced as possible.


Alliums, evenly spaced in their hole.

My tulips are beloved by voles, so I sprinkle them with bloodmeal and crushed oyster shells.  In Wisconsin, crushed oyster shells are not available readily, so I buy them in bulk on ebay.  Then just cover them with the soil you removed from the hole, making sure to break up any clumps.

If you need to plant under mulch and use my newspaper technique, you can easily roll the newspaper back and plant underneath, otherwise, you’d be wise to use a dibber.


Using Newspaper to roll back the mulch.

With any luck, your bulbs will be up and beautiful and you will be enjoying them all season.

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