Autumn. What does this one word bring to mind? Shorter days, cooler temperatures, leaves changing colours, back to school, maybe closing the pool and/or the cottage. And we can’t forget, fall bulb planting time! Why? Because flowering bulbs (like Tulips) need to be in the ground before it freezes. During the winter they will begin rooting, and the 12-16 weeks of cold weather sets them up for flowering once the soils warm up in the spring.
Planting bulbs in the fall is the best way to ensure some early colour for your gardens. Fall bulbs come in many varieties, colours, heights, and flowering times: from Crocus and Snowdrops that only grow a few inches and poke their little leaves and flowers up through the snow; to Daffodils and Hyacinths that flower once the weather warms a bit; to Tulips with striking cup-shaped flowers available in hundreds of vibrant colours; to some types of Alliums that can grow up to 4 feet tall and flower in early summer. Fall bulbs are a fantastic way to get that little splash of colour after a long, dreary winter.
Fall Bulbs can be planted in sunny, partly sunny and even shady locations. Often plants in sunnier spots will flower a bit sooner, as the soil warms up faster come spring. And they’re easy to plant: loosen the soil, dig a hole of the appropriate depth for the bulb you are planting, place your bulb in (root side down), fill the hole with soil, and pat gently. If you are planting groups of bulbs, consider digging one big hole or trench instead of several smaller ones to save labour. Bone meal is commonly used as a fertilizer at planting time to give the bulbs a little extra boost. And be sure to feed the bulbs at flowering time in the spring, as they need the food right after flowering to make next year’s flowers.
Bulbs come in many shapes and sizes, and they will need to be planted at different depths. The general rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to plant them with their base sitting at 2.5 to 3 times the diameter of the bulb. A similar rule can be applied to spacing, with most bulbs requiring about 3 times their width between them and their neighbours. You can plant your bulbs closer together for a lush, more dramatic display if you wish, but leave adequate space if you want your bulbs to naturalize and multiply. Most bulb packages will indicate the precise planting depth and spacing for the variety you have purchased.