THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: It’s time to get down and dirty with bulbs

Now is the time to get down and dirty with dirt cheap bulbs. Spring blooming daffodils, tulips, crocus and a bouquet of minor or smaller bulbs are deeply discounted at most nurseries and garden centers right now and November is the perfect time to plant.

Planting bulbs into the cold, wet ground in November is an act of faith, a promise of beauty to come and an investment in the renewal of spring. Plus getting outdoors to add some bulbs to the garden will also give you a last chance to pull weeds, mow and trim the lawn, prune back overly tall roses and harvest the last of the garden produce. Dig in with these Top Ten Bulbs Planting Tips:


Lazy gardeners listen up. Lots of designers will preach the wisdom of planting in large drifts or blocks of color, and tulips in bunches of 12 to 25 look especially nice. But there is no need to dig individual holes for each bulb. Use a big shovel, remove the top 6 to 12 inches of soil in an area and arrange all the bulbs into the same planting hole, shoulder to shoulder, cheek to jowl. The result is spring color painted with broad brush strokes.


Don’t know how deep to plant a bulb? Just dig down three times the width of the bulb. For tulips and daffodils if you take the time to dig down one foot deep, the bulbs will reward your efforts by returning more reliably year after year.


No need to work up a sweat. You can cheat in our climate and just lay the bulbs on top of the soil then cover them up with 3 to 4 inches of topsoil, potting soil, mulch or even bark chips.


Forget about adding bone meal to the soil when you plant bulbs. Bone meal and blood meal can encourage animals to dig in the spot and the spring flower is already formed inside the bulb.


You don’t need to water or fertilize the bulbs when you plant them. Remember, the flower is already formed, and I can promise you it will rain this month.


If you have frost-bitten or summer-spent bedding plants or annuals in your garden or containers, pull them up by their roots. Slip in a bulb. Cover and you’re done. Bulbs grow in pots on the porch or patio are safe from rodents and will bloom sooner than those planted in the ground. All they really need is well-drained soil so make sure your potted bulbs are not sitting under an overflowing gutter or down spout.


Plant bulbs directly into the dry soil beneath maples and flowering cherry trees. The bulbs will bloom before the trees leaf out in May. This way even a shaded garden can enjoy a window of opportunity for intense, early spring color.


Got squirrels digging things up? Mice nibbling your tulips? Surround a bed of tulips with daffodils to repel pests. Nobody likes to eat daffodils – and that includes deer.


Use small or minor bulbs for small spaces, forgotten corners and to light up the beds near walkways or to improve the view right outside your window. I’ll have more information about these minor bulbs next week, but you need only a few inches of room to tuck in the tiny bulbs of snowdrop, crocus and dwarf iris.


And finally, “Occupy Spring” with some civil disobedience and random acts of gardening. Defy the establishment by adding a few daffodils outside the drive up window of your bank, tiptoe to a public park and sneak some tulips into the shrubbery or liberate the mundane at the public library and poke in some crocus bulbs. You may not be able to fight city hall, but you can fight for more spring flowers – just plant a bulb.


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