How to get your garden ready for fall-bulb planting…
The most wonderful time of the year is coming up for lovers of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, alliums, fritillaria, crocus, lilies…most all of the popular flowers of spring and summer. Many of the best-loved flower bulbs need some chill time through winter, so they really need to be planted in fall. What does that mean right now? It’s time to plan.
Low Maintenance and High Impact
There is a simple way to get the easiest, most beautiful show possible out of your bulbs. All it takes is a little summer planning. You want to check the sunlight in your garden, where water gathers and where it’s scarce. Matching the right bulb to the right environment makes a world of difference when it comes to maintaining your garden. For instance, many bulbs can’t handle soggy soil, so your highly anticipated hyacinth show will be canceled if the bulbs have rotted through. Instead, pick out something that will thrive in that location without constant care on your part, like water-loving fritillaria for wet sites and sun-loving alliums for quick-drying soil.
It’s All in the Timing
Another great thing you can do with proper planning is to determine what plants flower when, so that your garden always has something in bloom. For example, if you want an entire area of your garden dedicated to a great big, colorful display of tulips, it’s a good idea to place some crocus or grape hyacinths for some color before the big show, and maybe a line of lilies in back that’ll take the spotlight in summer.
There’s another reason to pair up your earlier and later blooming varieties. Once a bulb flowers, it’s best to leave the foliage to soak up as much energy as it can and die back naturally. That’s what gives perennial bulbs enough energy to start the show again next year. Beds full of drying bulb foliage aren’t going to look nice throughout the summer, however, so you can stagger bloom times to keep the border looking good. This is also where bulbs and other perennials can make a nice tag team. Before your bigger perennials really get going, spring bulbs will shine, and when the bulb foliage is fading, your perennials can hide it.
Your Garden Planner
It may seem like a lot to think about, but planning a multi-season garden can be easy. On the Michigan Bulb site, you can take advantage of our search tools. Say you’ve found a new spring-blooming bulb you adore. Use the Michigan Bulb plant finder, located right next to the search bar, and search for summer-blooming varieties to pair it with.
We say all this now, because summer is ideal for picking out your bulbs. First of all, the fall line has just come out, so you have the best selection. Secondly, it’s easy to see where you want to focus your attention during the planting season, because you can see what’s going on in the growing season right now. And finally, you don’t have to have everything prepared at once. You have time to make sure all your bases are covered before your bulbs are shipped in fall.
Bulbs are Social
When’s the last time you’ve seen just one lone tulip or hyacinth standing in a garden bed? Bulbs can comfortably tuck in close together, and in groups or en masse you’ll get a much fuller, more natural look. The general landscaping tip here is that the more you plant of each type of bulb, the bigger the impact will be. This is especially true with little flowers. If you want them to show up in your landscape, you’re going to want them in big drifts. That’s why you can order things like a Super Bag of 50 crocus bulbs on our site. Trust us, they won’t go to waste.
If you’re trying to make your bulb planting look natural, use irregular or odd numbered groups and avoid the straight line. If you’re matching different bulbs, like tulips and grape hyacinths, be sure to put the shorter-stemmed varieties in front and the longer-stemmed behind. Daffodils are great planted in drifts along a hard-to-mow hillside, providing beauty without maintenance. Daylilies are tough-as-nails, so they’ll stand up to high traffic sites like the edging along a walkway. There’s so much you can do, and you can really get creative with bulbs, because you don’t need to be a pro to get a good show.
Bulb Planting is a Breeze…
Bulbs are often suggested for those just starting out in the garden. Besides the fact that they carry many of our favorite flowers, bulbs are loved because they’re the total package. Just about everything a bulb needs is stored inside. You just pop it in the ground, give it some water, and when its season comes it’ll burst forth with magnificent, colorful, plentiful blooms.
Planting couldn’t be easier. While the general practice is to plant a bulb in a hole three-times its height, with the growing side (the pointy end) facing up, you really don’t need to stress. Many bulbs are low-maintenance—even if you plant them upside down, they’ll still find their way to the surface. After all, these plants exist in nature, too, which isn’t nearly as precise a gardener!
…There’s Just One Thing
There is one thing you’ll want to do, however, and that’s to check your soil—especially if you’re doing something like establishing a new garden bed. There are a couple of ways to make soil ideal for your bulbs. They do well with a lot of organic matter and ample nutrients in the soil, so adding in some compost to a new bed is a good idea. You should also weed the area so there isn’t competition for the soil’s nutrients.
What bulbs need most, however, is well-draining soil. Good air and moisture circulation keep everything disease-free and running fine. If you’ve got heavy clay soil that tends to retain a lot of moisture, you should amend it so that your bulbs won’t get soggy and rot. Mix in an equal amount of peat moss, compost or other light material for better circulation.
And that’s it! Just a little prep and planning, and you’re all set for planting bulbs this fall.