For those of us who live in colder climates, the next outdoor growing season is several months away. Still, it’s never too early to begin planning the first blooms that will celebrate the end of a long winter.
Fall is the perfect time to get spring-blooming bulbs into the ground. Think daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths.
Over the winter, they will put down roots and develop, so that come the spring, they’re ready to emerge and greet us with beautiful pops of color.
According to Gardening Complete: How to Best Grow Flowers, Vegetables, and Other Outdoor Plants, spring-blooming bulbs need the winter chill to perform their best; they crave the cold!
To give them an extra boost, be sure to prepare the garden bed properly before planting:
- Bulbs will rot in standing water, so make sure there’s good soil drainage.
- Add 2-3 inches of organic matter to a depth of about 10-12 inches in the garden.
- Add some slow-release fertilizer or bone meal to the area.
- Plant the bulb at a depth 3-4 times its width. Its pointed end should be up.
- Place small bulbs 1-2 inches apart; larger ones need a distance of 3-6 inches.
- Once covered with soil, cover the bed with about 3 inches of organic mulch.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Not all bulbs and tubers are tolerant of frigid temperatures.
Summer-blooming bulbs, such as dahlias, gladiolas, callas, and cannas are always planted in the spring after the risk of frost has passed.
They will not survive the winter in the ground, so be sure to lift them out of the garden and store them inside over the colder months.
- Once nighttime temperatures hit the single digits, cut the foliage down to a few inches above soil level.
- Carefully lift the bulbs or tubers out the ground; some are very delicate and won’t do well next season if broken.
- Shake off any excess soil and allow them to dry on some newspaper in a warm, dry spot for a week or two.
- Similar to other seeds, once dry, store the tubers or bulbs in paper bags in a cool (10°C), dry location.
- If you are growing the bulbs in pots, they can be stored in the container over the winter as long as it is given time to dry out completely before being stored.