Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2004
Regional Report

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Hand-pick daffodil bulbs with double tips for best performance.

Begin the Bulb Beguine!

People are sometimes disappointed when they plant bulbs and only get foliage and no flowers. Here are a few tips for planting a spring bulb garden.

Selecting the Best
The first thing you need to know before you buy bulbs is the grading system. Daffodils are graded as DN1, DN2 or DN3. DN stands for Double nose. DN3 bulbs are smaller and may not even flower the first year. They are sold in bulk packages. DN2 bulbs are larger and will produce nice flowers. The DN1 is the Cadillac of daffodils, producing the largest and most numerous flowers.

Tulips are sold as "top size" or "premium." You will spend more money for the larger-size bulbs, but in most cases it's worth it.

Planting in Layers
You can actually plant bulbs in layers or plant one variety of bulb on top of another. This is especially nice if your garden is small and you need to save space. By planting in layers, you will extend the blooming season. The larger bulbs go in first, in the deepest part of the hole. Fill in with soil, then add some tulips and more soil, then on the top layer add some tiny crocus bulbs. Cover the top layer of bulbs with soil and perhaps a layer of mulch.

If you have clay soil, plant your bulbs a little more shallowly than the recommended planting depth; if your soil is sandy, plant them a little deeper.

Foiling Critters
If you have problems with gophers, you might want to plant your bulbs in a wire basket. Planting this way also will keep the bulbs contained in one area and make it easy when it's time to dig and store them during the dormant season. If you have problems with hungry rodents feeding on bulbs, add a handful of crushed granite or oyster shells (available at garden centers) to the bottom of the planting hole.

A Potted Display
Planting bulbs in containers is another way to display them. Fill a terra cotta container one half full of good potting soil. Add a handful of superphosphate fertilizer and mix it in. Then pack the bulbs tightly together inside the pot, pointed ends up. It is alright if the sides of the bulbs touch each other. Cover the bulbs with soil, leaving room to water. Place the pots outside in an out-of-the-way area. Continue watering weekly until the winter rains begin. When you see some top growth, move the pots where you can enjoy the fabulous display of spring-blooming bulbs!

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