Nothing says spring like tulips and daffodils. And fall is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. So, what are bulbs? They’re a little burst of energy in a little package. One bulb that you may be familiar with is an onion. I’ve cut this onion in half, and you can see what’s in a bulb. We have what is going to be leaves. We have the basal plate down at the bottom where the roots are. And, in the center is where the little flower bud is going to form. So, everything is self-contained in a nice, neat little package.
There are a lot of places where you can go to buy bulbs. You can go to your local garden centers and nurseries. They may have them prepackaged in a bag ready to go. For instance, this one has five bulbs in a bag. They might also have a bulk bin, where you can select your own bulbs. You can pick as many as you would like. Or, some of you may receive catalogs in the mail. This is a place where you can buy some of the more unusual varieties that you may not find locally.
When you choose your bulb, you’ll want to make sure that you choose nice, quality bulbs. There are a few things to look for. In the case of bulbs, it’s true that bigger is better. Here are two different daffodil bulbs. This one has a single nose. The other one has two points – we call that a double nose. This one will send forth a flower shoot from each of the noses. So, if you have a choice, always go for the big bulb that has a double nose.
Fall is a perfect time of year to plant bulbs. The days start to moderate, the nights get cooler, the soil starts to cool. We get to that time of year when we want to put on a sweater. So, when it’s sweater weather, that’s the time to plant spring flowering bulbs.
When you select a place for your bulbs, try to find an area that has good drainage, and is free from tree roots. One of the most important things is the planting depth. When you start digging your hole, you’ll want to make sure that the hole is two to three times as deep as the bulb is high. So, you’ll want to make sure that the base of this bulb is six to eight inches below the surface of the soil.
The next thing to do is to add a little fertilizer to the bottom of the planting hole. We’re choosing to use bone meal because it’s a great source of phosphorous. Bulb plants need phosphorous for good rooting and for getting them established. So, I’m going to sprinkle some bone meal in the bottom of that planting hole. Then, I’m going to work it in a little bit. It’s important that we add the phosphorous or bone meal at the bottom of the hole because phosphorous doesn’t leach through the soil like nitrogen does. So, you want to make sure that you have it exactly where that bulb needs it before we put the bulb in the soil.
So, we’re ready to plant. We’re going to space the bulbs about the same distance that we planted them deep. So, about six to eight inches apart so they have plenty of room. And, remember the point goes up. That’s where the shoot is going to come from, and the base down here is where the roots are going to be. So, we’re going to put the point up and the flat part down. Just scatter them around the planting hole.
If you don’t have exceptional soil, and you’d like to improve it, you could amend the soil with some compost or some peat moss. Either of those would help improve the soil texture, and make it easier for your bulbs to emerge. We have the soil covered back in the hole. We’re going to pull the mulch back over the soil. Give it a light watering. Then, we’ll sit back, relax, and wait for spring and those beautiful flowers.
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension Youth Gardening Specialist, 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.