Mark Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Seed and Garden
Every year I have want-to-be-better gardeners that ask me what is the easiest plant to grow in our area. While there are a lot of great answers, one stands out above all the others: fall bulbs. There really is nothing else that is as easy as “dig, drop, done.” That’s all it takes to be successful when planting fall bulbs — dig the hole, add some bulb food, place the bulbs in the bottom of the hole, backfill with soil, and then water. Mother Nature takes care of all the rest.
It never fails that when all the spring bulbs are flowering, someone comes into the store and wants to buy more bulbs right then and there.
Generally, the best time of year to find spring flowering bulbs and plant them is September through November. When our bulbs arrive, we normally carry about 75 varieties of tulips ranging from early bloomers like Red Emperor to huge, late flowering varieties like Orange Sunset (the flowers are even bigger than a softball!). Personally, I plant a lot of daffodils since they are deer resistant. For early blooms that nearly pop up out of the snow, try February Gold. If you want something really different, Salome daffodils have a pink cup instead of the traditional yellow. Every year our growers introduce new varieties that just keep amazing me with their unique colors and shapes.
My preferred time to plant is around October 20, as the soil is not frozen, and usually all the annual flowers have died back from frost at that point in the season. It’s always a great idea to amend your soil with compost or other soil amendment before planting. Depending on your compost of choice, add 1-2 inches and incorporate it into the existing soil with a garden tiller or by hand with a shovel or digging fork. Tilling in a soil amendment makes planting a cinch.
I prefer to dig large holes and put 5-12 bulbs in each hole, for big splashes of color when they bloom, but many of our customers like to use a bulb planter or auger for easy digging of smaller holes. On many occasions, I have told gardeners my preferred method of planting bulbs is with a backhoe — large holes with lots of bulbs per hole! It’s not the most realistic response, but I could plant 500 bulbs in about 10 minutes of work; how nice would that be?
Don’t forget to fertilize when planting. When all the holes are ready, but before placing the bulbs in the bottom, make sure to use a good bulb food or Bone Meal-type fertilizer to give them the strength they need to set big flowers for spring. I sprinkle the fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, gently work it into the soil, then place the bulbs right on top of the fertilizer. It’s that simple.
The most critical component of bulb planting is that after you finish covering them with soil, make sure to water the bulbs and soil thoroughly. I continue to water newly planted bulbs every two weeks until the soil freezes. Always keep that soil moisture consistent unless we are getting consistent water through rain or snowstorms. Otherwise, the bulbs could dry up during the winter, preventing them from blooming. After all that work, make sure to give them the water they need to produce amazing blooms the next spring.
Planting bulbs is easy, and it really doesn’t even matter if you think you’ve never had a green thumb. Follow our easy steps: dig, drop, done, and you’ll be as successful as the most experienced gardener.