Nick Federoff's Blog
Spring Flowering Bulbs
Bulbs are one of the most underrated landscape plants. Oh, sure there’s a little work that’s involved with them but it is well worth it. I mean think about it. Planting bulbs is done outside of the traditional vegetable gardening season. This allows us to work off the winter fat and stay in shape!
If you get a traditional Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall then Autumn is the time to plant. In milder climates you can plant Spring bulbs into January. As long as the retailer still has them on the shelf then we are still good.
You need to be a little trickster when planting bulbs. First, get bulbs that are meaty and firm. No dark spots, sunken lesions, nothing out of the ordinary. A damaged bulb will only be a poor performer. The next step is to put the bulbs in a brown paper bag that is clearly marked what is inside. Put the bulbs in the back of your refrigerator to chill for up to 6-weeks. During that time…prepare your soil.
Bulbs perform best in a well-draining loamy soil. Bulbs can be also be planted in layers. For instance, plant Dutch Hyacinths at a 6” deep then put soil on top to plant Grape Hyacinths at a 5” depth. When they bloom together you’ll have a dynamic combination of plants that complement each other. Generally bulbs should be planted so the bottom rests at a depth that's two-and-a-half times the bulb's diameter.
Bulbs don’t need a whole lot feeding because they actually contain lots of energy built into the bulb. Keep your fertilizing to feedings of blood meal, bone meal, fish hydrolysates and SUPERthrive. These natural and organic methods are perfect for root and flower production.
If you are worried about gophers, moles and other burrowing critters it’s not uncommon to dig a trench deeper than needed for the bulbs then line it with chicken wire or a wire hardware mesh. You’ll have to change it out every couple of years but your bulbs will thank you for the protection.
Hybridizing bulbs has brought on a new way of growing them by not having to dig them up every year. I’ve tried a few patches of naturalized bulbs (the type you don’t pull out) and have found they grow O.K. year after year but they do get week after a couple of years. I’m a believer in the old fashion way of pulling them out each year, cleaning them up, getting rid of the small bulbs and saving the large ones for planting in late fall or winter. But then again…I still own a dial telephone.