Planting Spring Potential

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Plant fall bulbs to enjoy blooms in the spring!

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I start clearing annuals out of my pots and gardens, I start thinking about next spring! As I work away pulling stray weeds and adding compost to the gardens, I’m on the lookout for open areas that give me the opportunity to plant something to brighten up the spring garden. This fall my focus will be the new garden a created beside the potting shed!

I know it’s too early to plant bulbs, but it’s certainly time to plan for spring colour and buy while the selection is good. Spring blooming bulbs should be planted once the soil is consistently cool so that they form robust roots but don’t sprout. In our area, that tends to be mid to late October.

Snowdrops, crocuses, tulips and hyacinths are some of the earliest ones brightening up the garden. The key to having a successful bulb display is to understand that each type of bulb has its own time of bloom. Snowdrops bloom as soon as the snow starts to disappear. Next to bloom are crocus, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodxa), scilla plus early narcissus and tulips.

Once the early bulbs are fading away, it’s time for grape hyacinths, mid-season to late tulips and daffodils to put on a garden show. Alliums, which are in the ornamental onion family, flower from mid-May into July depending on the variety. With proper planning, you can have four months of flowering from a variety of hardy bulbs.

If you think that planning a spring colour parade sounds too complicated, bulb companies have made the task easy for you. Packages and tags give information about bloom time, identifying them as early, mid-season, late or summer flowering. Information is also given for planting depth, spacing and light requirements.

Some bulbs are packaged together that offer you either a collection for a succession of bloom or ones that bloom together for a complimentary colour display. Big colour pictures on the labels show you exactly what you are getting.

Once you have chosen the bulbs, store them in a cool, dark spot in the house until late fall. When you are ready to plant, loosen the ground in the garden thoroughly and add some compost to enrich the soil. Dig a planting hole the correct depth for the type you have. As a guideline, plant the bulb twice as deep as it is tall. Generally, large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils go down 6 to 8 inches and small bulbs about 3 to 5 inches. Check your package for exact information.

Spacing may depend on the effect you are trying to achieve. For a casual, natural display, use an uneven spacing. If you want a formal look, keep the distance between bulbs consistent. Large bulbs are spaced about 5 inches apart and small ones 2 to 3 inches.

Work transplanting fertilizer into the bottom of the hole as you plant to help establish healthy roots. Put bulbs in an upright position, firm soil around them and water well. Then continue to water as needed until the ground freezes.

Keep in mind that bulbs don’t like ‘wet feet’ as they tend to rot easily. If you have clay soil, make sure they are positioned in a well drained area.

If by chance you tuck your bulbs away and forget to get them into the ground in late fall, don’t worry. I have scraped away the first snowfall and planted my bulbs wearing my woolies! They still bloomed well in the spring.

Every spring, be sure to fertilize your bulbs as soon as you see the leaves emerging from the soil. Use a good quality fertilizer formulated for flowering plants. This will ensure that your bulbs bloom year after to year!

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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