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Bulb No Brainer

Anne Jaeger

I was watching an old WC Fields movie the other day and suddenly found
myself thinking about planting bulbs. I’ll be darned if his big bulbous nose didn’t point me in the right direction just in time for planting. Planting bulbs is so easy, even shaky-handed WC Fields could do it right. Not that he would do it at all since Gin was distilled from potatoes not bulbs. But it really is a no brainer. A bulb is a full meal deal, it comes ready to go. Fortunately, you don’t even need to know which way is up to plant daffodils and tulips correctly. The pointy end should face up, but when in doubt lay the bulb on its side and it’ll figure it out. Just dig a hole with a shovel or trowel… (Heck, you can even use a spoon) and plop the bulb in the ground. Cover the bulb with twice its height of soil. You don’t really have to worry about getting this right either. In our climate more bulbs die from wet than cold. Good drainage is the main reason many people plant their tulips in pots. Personally, I see a lot of benefits to this method. First of all, the experts always tell us to plant bulbs in groups because single flowers look lonely and undramatic. And we can’t have that! So, Karen Beaver of Wooden Shoe Bulb Company gave me a fantastic tip to make it easy. I layer the bulbs with soil in gallon plastic pots. Then sink the entire pot into in the ground, so the lip of the pot is a little lower than soil level. A little blanket of mulch covers any evidence of the plastic below. In spring, when the bulbs are done blooming and start to look ratty, pull the pot out of the ground. Snap off the seed heads but leave the leaves. The foliage feeds the bulb. Fertilizer or bone meal isn’t needed but the extra flower food does plump up the bulb. Remember to get the best results, search for big, firm bulbs with no soft spots or mildew.
Another question that comes up a lot is what to do with indoor bulbs. Paper Whites are the easiest to “force” into bloom. In a water tight container, place the bulbs on top of rocks or gravel. The water should touch the bottom of the bulb and you will have color by Thanksgiving! (Hold off the bloom by keeping the bulbs in a bag in the refrigerator. Try not to confuse them for onions later on. Although bulbs are an excellent source of starch…not Gin!) Anyway, after the bloom is gone plant the bulb outside. I have a border at the side of my yard I call the “bulb graveyard” for just such opportunities. Now, if you have trouble with critters eating or digging up your work lay chicken wire over the planting area and cover with mulch.
Finally, I have two more bits of sage advice for you. One from our bulbous friend WC Fields the other from the Wooden Shoe Bulb Company to help us figure out how many bulbs make “dramatic effect”.
Planting Guide
(Bulbs per square foot)
Crocus 10-15
Daffodils 5
Hyacinths 5
Tulips 8-10

“Start everyday with a smile and get it over with.”