Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fall Bulbs

Planting Bulbs

Most of us think of bulbs only in the spring when we see crocus or tulips blooming in our neighbors’ gardens. I can’t tell you how many people we get at the store in April wanting to buy bulbs already in bloom and they are disappointed to learn that crocus and other bulbs are planted in the fall. We usually have a small amount of blooming bulbs ready to plant or use indoors. This is an expensive way to get early color in the spring. With a little planning you can achieve the same effect for a lot less money.

There are quite a few bulbs that can be planted this fall as soon as the soil temperature drops. Using a technique called "layering," you can extend the blooming period in a small space right through fall. Because different bulbs need to be planted at different depths in the soil you can plant over top of a lower layer of bulbs. The chart shows the depths that bulbs should be planted. Basically, a bulbs should be planted at a level 3 times as deep as its length. Thus, a crocus bulb that is 1" long should be planted about 3" deep in the soil. Remember to plant the bulb pointy end up and root end down.

To layer the bulbs, dig an area as deep as the biggest bulbs you will plant. Place those bulbs at the bottom, cover with dirt and then with some bulb fertilizer or bone meal. Then plant the next layer, cover with dirt and fertilizer. Continue until you have finished. Be sure to water in thoroughly. Bulbs put down their roots in the fall. This technique can also be used to plant up a container to force for next spring.

There are a variety of bulbs that can be planted to get color through three seasons. Within the daffodil and tulip families there are early, mid and late season bloomers. Alliums bloom in late spring or early summer. Lily varieties bloom early to mid summer. I have autumn crocuses and colchicums blooming now in my garden. I first saw the autumn crocuses in London one September and have enjoyed them ever since. The stamens from these plants is harvested for the pollen, which is saffron, the ingredient in pealla. The colchicums, which are often called crocus but aren’t, have huge, elaborate flowers. Several bulb varieties are even deer resistant, including daffodils, allium, grape hyacinth, lily of the valley, scilla, and fritillaria.

When planning your garden, make sure to leave room for bulbs for color that begins early and can last through all three seasons.

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