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Now's the Time to Plant Spring Bulbs!

Fall just got here, winter's around the corner, but now is actually when you should be planting flower bulbs for your spring garden, master gardener William Moss explains in this column.

Success with Spring Bulbs

by William Moss

After a long winter (and they are all long!), spring bulbs are the most welcome sight in gardening. As they explode from the ground in masses of color, they begin the growing season and assure us that milder weather is on the way. Gardeners are lucky that these harbingers of springtime are both beautiful and forgiving.

(Many years ago, when I was a complete novice, the success I had with a couple bags of 'February Gold' daffodils gave me confidence and propelled me down the gardener's path. Bulbs provide a foolproof floral display that brightens gardens, feeds the newly awakened bumblebee queens, and lifts our spirits)

Planting bulbs now is literally like planting a little piece of spring. An embryonic plant complete with leaves, stems, and flowers is locked inside the bulb just waiting to grow. Select bulbs that are firm and healthy looking. Once you have the bulbs, all that's left is proper placement and planting.

Choose a site where the bulbs will receive good sunlight during spring. Also choose a spot with good drainage or the bulbs may rot. Amend poorly drained, heavy soils with organic matter to improve tilth, nutrients, and drainage.

The ideal planting depth depends on the size of the bulb. The general rule is to plant three times as deep as the bulb is wide. That means about 4 to 6 inches deep for small bulbs like snowdrops, crocuses, and scillas, and about 8 inches deep for large bulbs like hybrid tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. You can follow the recommended spacing on the packages or place them closer together for a bigger impact.

Planted en masse, the exuberant colors of spring bulbs make a grand statement. Because more is better, the shovel is my preferred planting tool. Once they are planted, the gardener's work is done. The bulbs develop throughout winter, and with no assistance from us, start sprouting in early spring. All that's left for the gardener to do is admire the flowers and cut a few for vases. Start planning and selecting now for a spectacular spring.

Tips for Spring Bulbs
• Order in mass for a eye-popping display
• Plant in early autumn for best root development and best results
• Add organic matter/compost to the soil for nutrients and drainage
•Wear gloves when handling bulbs
• Plant bulbs immediately when they arrive or store in a cool, dark, dry place
• Place shorter bulbs in the front of beds and borders
• Try to have everything planted well before the ground freezes
• Mulch the planting area to avoid heaving from wintertime thawing and freezing

For more info and photos go to:
Using Bulbs in Landscaping
The Hyacinthaceae Family
Coloring the Garden with Spring Bulbs
Moss' Top Ten Plants of March
Moss' Top Ten Plants of April
Moss' Top Ten Plants of May