Don't make the most common mistakes with bulbs this year


Every spring, I always admire my neighbors' display of yellow and orange daffodils that border their chainlink fence in a dense, colorful row on each side of the fence.

And every spring, I always wish I had planted enough bulbs to copy their idea in my own yard.

If you're like me and want a flush of spring color, now is the time to start thinking about what types of bulbs you'd like to include in your garden. Alliums? Narcissus? Daffodils? Crocus?

Sue Timmons, a Master Gardener who works in the garden center at Simpson Hardware & Sports, said all those varieties will do well in our climate, although she said crocus aren't as long-lived as daffodils.

Timmons said one of the most common mistakes people make with bulbs is planting them too early.

"Bulbs are best planted near the end of October because you don't want them to start sprouting up," Timmons said.

She said this will give them time to establish their roots during the winter, and planting then will mean the foliage won't get frostbitten from coming up too early.

Another common mistake is that some shoppers admire a neighbor's bulb garden in the spring and then try to plant bulbs during spring instead of fall. In this case, you may not get any flowers because the roots haven't been able to grow over several months.

So how should you plant your bulbs?

"Usually they come with directions telling how deep to plant them. If they don't, plant them twice as deep as the bulb is big," Timmons said.

And make sure you plant them with the stem end up and the root end in the hole you dig.

If you're planning a large bulb garden and have a daunting number you want to try, you can buy a tool that will do the job for you. You can find bulb augurs and drills at websites such as Holland Bulb Farms.

She recommended against putting fertilizer at the bottom of the holes you dig for them. Instead, you can put some fertilizer on top of the soil after you've covered up the bulbs. Timmons said bone meal isn't the best choice because it can attract all sorts of critters but that bulb fertilizer is made to not attract animals.

If you've had issues with your bulbs being dug up by famished squirrels, Timmons suggested laying down chicken wire over the section of garden you've used for the bulbs. This way, the bulbs can sprout through the wire, and animals won't be able to get their paws under it to dig them out. She said moth balls can also work to deter deer and squirrels.

This fall, she said Simpson Hardware will stock several types of bulbs popular here.

"People like to plant all kinds of daffodils and narcissus because they come back every year. They do very well in this area, and they multiply," she said.

They'll also have alliums; fritillaria or crown imperial, which she said should be more popular than they are because of their beauty; grape hyacinths; and leucojum, a long-lived option.

"Leucojum lives a really long time, and you'll see them in old homesteads. They'll be growing there 50 to 100 years. They've been popular here for a very, very, very long time," Timmons said.

Tulips are popular but don't always return the next year, so she said they're really only good for one season. Amaryllis is also a great option to plant indoors in a pot for some color, and then you can plant them outside in the spring to bloom for their first season. They'll come back each year.

With plenty of options available here, you can plant a bulb garden this fall that'll make all your neighbors take notice of your beautiful flowers next spring. And hopefully they won't rush out for bulbs and be disappointed.