It might be optimism, it might be delusion, it might be weakness, but whatever it is around here there always seems to be an unreasonable amount of bulbs in need of planting…. or there might not be enough. No one is ever really sure but one thing is definite. I have never regretted planting too many bulbs, so until I do it’s always better to err on the side of caution and overdo it if possible.
There’s no denying that I’m a bulboholic and I think if you keep up with this blog you already know that fact. They’re my favorite plant type and for good reason. Each spring they just explode into growth, bloom like there’s no tomorrow, and then politely fade away, all within a few weeks. They’re like a spring fling which burns hot and then ends on good terms.
Somehow the bulbs just find me during the summer. I dig a clump of daffodils to thin them, find a clump of tulips when moving something else, more daffodils come out when I move a bed… before you know it there are bulbs in saucers, bags, and boxes all over the garage, plus a few I pick up at the nursery. This year an early clearance sale at Van Engelen’s added a few hundred more crocus and muscari. You can’t overdo crocus and muscari, so obviously those needed to be purchased as well. Since I don’t enjoy planting bulbs, 850 new crocus corms can border on autumn torture so I try to deal with them as efficiently and quickly as possible. Here’s a trick I read online which I now love that really moves things along when planting larger numbers of small bulbs.
A masonry hammer seemed necessary at some point for chipping stones and breaking cinderblocks, but it’s now become invaluable for planting small bulbs in the turf of the meadow garden. Using a shovel is much more work than I’m willing to do and when you’re trying to naturalize bulbs, or make them look like they just seeded out into your lawn on their own, then digging large sections of turf up is just out of the question. I find the hammer much easier to use. One swing and it’s into the ground, a pivot back and you have just the hole you need for a tiny bulb or two.
I start off carefully, trying to get the sprouting end up and the bulb gently eased down into the hole, but after the first 100 they’re getting dropped in and jammed down whichever way works. A quick swipe with the hammer also closes the hole. After about an hour and a half (including two 20 minute breaks to unlock my knees and back) all the bulbs were in. People talk about the joys of gardening but for me I far prefer sitting back after the job’s done and visualizing the results. I have plenty of other things which need doing in and out of the house, so the less time spent prepping cute little holes and overdoing a job the better. If one had to sum up my entire bulb planting philosophy I think ‘shallow graves’ might not be the worst term to apply. For larger tulips and daffodils I’m not above digging out a shovelful or two of dirt, throwing in a handful of bulbs and carelessly kicking the dirt back over them without bothering to prep the soil or put the bulbs right side up again. In the vegetable garden some bulbs go into trenches so shallow that by the time the compost rots away from above them the tops of the bulbs are actually at the soil surface…. although this has just as much to do with thin soil and poor drainage as it does with a lack of enthusiasm for digging.
I often read that in order to have bulbs such as tulips last longer and re-bloom reliably they should be planted as deep as possible, sometimes up to a foot deep. This sounds like a lot of unnecessary work and I’m completely against it. Perhaps a shallow bulb is more likely to split due to stress such as drought, but for the most part mine come back best when the spring is long and cool, tulips are deadheaded (daffs and hyacinths don’t seem to care), and tulips are either dug up for the summer or not watered in a spot which is nice and dry. Planting depth, as long as it’s at least a couple inches down, doesn’t seem to factor in much at all and unless someone shows me actual research to prove otherwise I’m going to say deep planting is one of those often repeated bits of advice which don’t really do much here or there.
So we’ll see this spring if my lazy planting methods pay off again. Good soil prep and proper planting depth are always a great thing, but I prefer to not overthink gardening. If a squirrel can successfully plant sunflowers and oak trees throughout my flower beds, and the best iris can survive a year under the compost pile, I think I can pop a few bulbs into the ground without a PhD and still get good results. I’m already looking forward to seeing the ‘bulked up’ meadow plantings next spring.
Two issues may still stand in my way. Rabbits have huge appetites once they discover fresh crocus flowers, so I may have to do something about that come springtime. The second worry is that the mixed crocus were irresistibly cheap when compared to the single color varieties I had been planting in the past. Hopefully the Technicolor patches look as nice as the solid color patches I have now. I did try to keep the single colors closer together and the mixed ones more spread out but who knows how this naturalizing theory will work out in the real garden. If worse comes to worse the bunnies will make quick work of any mistakes.
Have a great weekend and I’d love to hear which bulbs have made the cut for you this year. One request though, please don’t rub it in too much that you’ve already completed your planting 🙂