The Q&A Archives: Planting Bulbs In The Fall

Question: I need instruction on how toprepare a bed. I want to plant bulbs in the fall for a spring and summer garden.

Answer: Spring flowering bulbs need loose, humus rich, well-draining soil. They won't grow well in poor or compacted soils. Prepare the soil prior to planting by digging in some compost, or other organic matter, to a depth of 6-8 inches. A rule of thumb for planting depth is soil covering the plant should be twice the height of the bulb. That means if the bulb is one inch tall, you'd need to dig a 3 inch hole--one inch for the bulb to sit in, plus 2 inches of soil on top.

Here's some basic info on fertilizer and nutrients that plants require. The numbers on a fertilizer bag refer to the percentage of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous), and K (potassium) in the bag. There are different formulations for different purposes. In general terms, nitrogen produces lush green growth, phosphorous helps strengthen stems and produce flowers, and potassium keeps the root system healthy. In reality, these elements work in conjunction with one another. If you're applying fertilizer to bulbs, for example, you're not as interested in the plant developing leaves as you are in it flowers, so you'd use a formulation lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous and potassium, such as a 5-10-10. Miracle-Gro's Plant Food at 15 30-15 is another example. Bone meal is an organic source of phosphorous. Since phosphorous doesn't move as readily through the soil as does nitrogen, it's a good idea to mix a small amount (follow package instructions) into the hole before transplanting, to mix it into the bottom of the planting hole. Also, keep adding compost every year. Organic matter is excellent for soil fertility and contains many essential trace elements, such as magnesium.

Most bulbs like full sun, but afternoon shade can also be appropriate.

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