As your fall garden lays aside its colorful summer cloak to wrap itself in the drab browns of winter, gardeners are already preparing for spring when gardens will again burst with colorful displays. Spring-flowering bulbs are now available at local garden centers; and avid gardeners are stocking up on Tulips, Daffodils (Narcissus), Hyacinths (Hyacinthus) and other spring favorites.
Spring-flowering bulbs can be planted anytime during the fall until frost when the ground becomes too hard to dig. As a general rule, bulbs should be planted 2 1/2 times deeper than their diameter or roughly 6 to 7 inches for large bulbs like hyacinths and daffodils; 5 inches for medium-sized tulip bulbs, and 1 1/2 to 3 inches for smaller bulbs like crocuses. Individual holes can be dug for each bulb or a large pit can be excavated to the correct depth for mass plantings. Before placing bubs, mix soil with bone meal or a granulated 5-10-5 plant fertilizer to promote vigorous growth. Place bulbs in holes root side down and fill holes with dirt. When planting is complete, water bulb beds.
If squirrels frequently visit your yard, you may want to protect newly-planted bulbs by staking a layer of chicken wire over planted areas to prevent hungry squirrels from digging them up. Because squirrels don’t care for daffodil bulbs, some gardeners have found intermingling tulip bulbs (a squirrel favorite) with daffodils to be an effective deterrent. Remember to remove chicken wire in early spring when bulbs begin to sprout so it won’t interfere with flower growth. After bulbs finish flowering next spring, flowers may be cut for indoor display. The heads of uncut flowers should be removed when blooms fade to prevent the formation of seed pods which drain energy from the bulb. To ensure a vivid display the following year, plant foliage should also be left to die back naturally and recharge the bulb.