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The general rule of thumb for planting spring bulbs is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulbs is tall. This means most large bulbs like tulips or daffodils will be planted about 6 inches deep while smaller bulbs will be planted 3-4 inches deep. The depth of planting should be measured from the surface level of the soil to the shoulder of the bulb and the eyes or crowns of the perennials. Distance between plants is measured from the center of one plant to the center of the next.
There are two basic methods of planting. One is to dig individual holes for each plant. This can be done with a garden trowel or one of the special hole-cutting tools called bulb planters. Dig the hole several inches deeper than the recommended planting depth and fill to base level with a mixture of loose soil and food for bulbs. Then place your plant in the hole and cover it with loose soil. Using your fingers, gently push the soil into position around the plant so there will be no air pockets where water can collect.
If you are planting a quantity of plants in a single area, you may want to dig an entire bed to planting depth. Then you can locate each plant just where you want it before covering with soil. Press the soil into position around each plant to eliminate air pockets.
Soil PrepFall is the prime time for planting of hardy spring flowering bulbs. Bulbs and perennials need plenty of water and good drainage. If water has a tendency to stand in the planting area, you’ll want to break up hard sub-soil and put in a layer of drainage material such as coarse gravel, broken stone or sifted cinders below your surface soil.
Summer-blooming Dutch bulbs and perennials are not fussy about soil – provided it is not too heavy and sticky. If soil is heavy, loosen it with lots of humus, sand, gypsum, etc. If very light, add moisture holders – humus, peat mold, etc. If you have a soil with a high clay content, it can be improved by adding compost, peat moss or some other source of organic material. The organic material should be worked in the top twelve inches of soil (eighteen inches is even better).
While each plant is a complete “plant factory” in itself, with built-in nourishment, it is a good idea to mix a quantity of Breck’s Food for Bulbs and Perennials with the loose soil at the bottom of your planting. This will provide additional food without any danger of “burning.” Never apply fresh or half-rotted manure directly on bulbs and perennials. As soon as the shoots break through the ground in the spring, repeat the fertilizer application. Do not fertilize spring flowering bulbs after they have started flowering. This tends to encourage the development of bulb rot and sometimes shortens the life of the flowers. Summer and fall flowering bulbs should be fertilized monthly from shoot emergence until the plants reach full flower. The optimum pH range for bulbs is 6 to 7. A soil test of the planting area is necessary to determine if lime needs to be applied to adjust the soil pH. If needed, limestone should be worked into the soil. For good bud development, work Breck’s Bulb and Perennials Food into the soil at planting.
Which End is Up?
One of the most frequently asked questions about planting bulbs is, “Which end goes up?” Most true bulbs, such as Tulips and Daffodils, have pointed tips which should point upward. Corms, tubers and rhizomes usually show sprouts on their upper sides, and these should be on top when planted. Some of the smaller bulbs, such as Poppy Anemones, look like small dried peas or small stones and can be planted in any direction – their shoots will find their way toward the sun.