Mark Anderson, owner, Anderson Seed and Garden
Some people just don’t have the knack for growing plants. They enjoy them, but when it comes to growing them, they just lack that “green thumb” that comes naturally to others. Fall bulbs, however, should come with the label “no green thumb required.” Fall bulbs require very little care after planting and will produce beautiful flowers in the spring without any additional work. For those “challenged” gardeners out there, bulbs make gardening easy. It’s almost like gardening magic.
Each spring, many novice gardeners approach me asking about the beautiful flowers they see blooming all over the valley — daffodils, tulips, crocus, and hyacinth — and why we don’t have them to sell. The simple answer is you plant them in the fall and enjoy the show in the spring. They create less gratification now when planting, but bring so much joy in the early spring when there isn’t much color in the yard. Bulbs do make a great investment: plant once, enjoy the flowers for multiple years, and your investment multiplies over time, producing more bulbs. I can see why gardeners ask for them in the spring when they are so beautiful, but a little planning and forethought goes into creating that colorful display when planting in the fall.
For many years, I planted our bulbs (about 1000 of them, 500 tulips and 500 daffodils) with only the help of my small children. It’s so easy to do even with small hands helping. Dig your hole, add fertilizer, place the bulbs in the bottom of the hole and cover them with loose soil and water. Personally, I like digging big holes and putting about seven to 10 bulbs in each hole. I’d dig the holes and my kids would follow behind me, dropping a scoop or two of fertilizer in each hole. While I worked the soil into the bottom of the holes, they would count out the bulbs and place them in the hole so they weren’t touching. Since the bulbs have pointy ends, it’s very easy for the kids to plant them correctly — point up. Then we’d cover them with soil and let the sprinklers do the rest.
Between the three of us, we could plant 1000 bulbs in a couple hours, no problem. Explaining to kids how bulbs work is easy – very similar to seeds. They seem to understand better than some adults that it takes time for the bulbs to do their work (all winter in fact) but that the final result will be worth all the trouble when they start to bloom in the spring. There really is nothing better than having your kids rush home after school to see if the bulbs have started blooming yet and seeing the excitement in their eyes as the colors pop out when everything else around the yard is brown and grey. It really is that easy.
Our flowerbeds aren’t as large as they used to be, so I’m not planting nearly as many bulbs as before, and my kids are all much older and less interested in helping Dad plant the flowers. I miss the opportunity to make that magic happen each spring with my young children. Make a point this year to make a little of that “bulb” magic happen in your garden this fall and spring with your children, grandchildren, spouse or just for yourself. It will be worth the effort.