I wanted to have a short section with organic gardening advice for how to plant everything from trees and shrubs down to annuals and even seeds.
There are a lot of misconceptions and poor practices when it comes to planting, and hopefully this will clear up a few of them.
So here are my articles with organic gardening advice for planting…
Planting trees in the fall is one of my favorite things to do, so today I’m giving you 9 videos from my online gardening course on how to plant a tree (these videos are from 1 of the 4 ‘modules’ from month 8 of the Academy).
Yes, there are a lot of videos on this page.
Here are the most important organic fertilizers and inoculants I mention at some point in these videos because I always use them when planting trees:
I love digging in a garden and I also love walking through a forest.
Most people think of forests and gardens as two separate things, but forest gardening combines the best of both worlds.
In this video, I show you the mini forest garden I’m developing that’s only about 2000 square feet (you can do this in a small area).
A double-stemmed tulip from our garden
Fall Bulb Planting Tips
1. When To Plant Fall Bulbs.
Some bulbs are planted in the fall and others in the spring. Bulbs that flower in spring are planted in the fall, and vice versa.
It’s time to start planting fall bulbs when nighttime temperatures are cool but far from freezing.
We want the rooting process to begin before the frost comes, so allowing 4-6 weeks of above-freezing temperatures is a good idea.
That time-frame allows the roots to establish in the fall so that come spring time, the plant is healthy and can go right into producing big flowers.
2. Buy The Biggest, Healthiest, Newest, Un-sprouted Bulbs
Like any plant, the types of bulb plants you can grow depends on your climate, so choose accordingly.
In the northern U.S. and up into Canada, for example, fall bulb plantings include garlic, other alliums, tulips, and daffodils.
There are many other fall bulbs to plant, but be sure to pick bulbs that are happy in your climate so that they’ll naturalize and come back every year.
Buy the biggest bulbs of each variety to get the biggest flowers. They should be planted before there’s any growth, so don’t buy them if they’ve already sprouted, and for the most part, don’t buy them on clearance – they probably won’t sprout.
The bulbs should also be healthy and disease free.
You can store bulbs to plant in fall that you had purchased earlier in the year, but they prefer to be in the ground, so the best idea is to plant them fresh and avoid keeping them out of the ground.
If you do need to store them, do so in a cool, dark room.
3. Select The Correct Location With Good Drainage.
There’s a saying in Dutch “bollen houden niet van natte voeten” which means bulb plants don’t like wet feet.
Choose a location that has good drainage and where water doesn’t puddle.
Plant at least a dozen fall bulbs together, as 2 or 3 here and there usually get lost among everything else.
If planting garlic, onions or other edible alliums, you can certainly have a dedicated bed, but you can also put them all throughout your organic garden, as most plants like having garlic nearby (not legumes).
I have a dedicated area for garlic and I plant a few here and there throughout.
4. Prepare The Area With Compost – No Fertilizer Needed.
If you’re planting a group of fall bulbs you can prepare a large area of soil, or for smaller quantities you can dig individual holes with a hand trowel.
The most important thing is to loosen compacted soil. You can even do so far below where the bulb will sit. With trees, we don’t’ want to dig deeper than where the tree will sit, but with bulbs, it’s fine.
The roots want to be beckoned down by soft, rich soil and not run into a firm floor, so don’t be scared to dig deep.
Well-done compost is all you need, amended into the whole area. Preparing a good seed bed makes a huge difference in the health of your bulbs.
5. Planting Depth Is 3-5 Times The Height Of The Bulb.
The depth of your bulbs will depend on what you’re planting. Basically, smaller bulbs are planted fairly shallow and bigger bulbs go deeper, just like with seeds.
We go for a depth of 3-5 times the height of the bulb. Most packaged bulbs you purchase should tell you specifically how deep to plant, as well as how wide to space them apart.
Deeper plantings will flower later, so if you plant some shallow and some deep, you’ll have a longer bloom period overall. Deeper plantings are also safer from squirrels.
Bulbs are planted with the pointy side up and the flat side down. With garlic, you break the bulb into cloves and plant them 1-3 inches deep, again with the pointy end toward the sky.
6. Maintaining Your Planting – Just Water, No Pruning.
Once your planting is complete, give it a gentle watering.
Since the bulbs aren’t too deep below the surface you don’t need to soak it too much, just enough that the soil gets saturated down to the roots.
In temperate climates, autumn often brings cooling rains that will help a lot, but if the skies stay clear, be attentive to your organic garden and continue watering until frost arrives.
When they’re done flowering, don’t cut them down. Let the bulb pull the nutrients back into itself and die back naturally. That’s how you get healthy bulbs.
7. Keeping Squirrels Away With Mulch, Wire, Cayenne.
To discourage squirrels and other critters from digging up your bulbs, a thick layer of mulch may be sufficient.
If your leaves are starting to fall, rake them onto the bulb area for a mulch. You can go 12 inches high if you want.
One inch chicken wire laid on the ground is even better, and generously-sprinkled cayenne pepper can scare them away, too.
Sometimes, they get the bulbs anyway. They are crafty little dudes.
As the temperature cools off where we are, we realize many of you are still in warmer places. Where are you and when will your garlic and other fall bulb planting time begin?
Two very cool things have happened this week, and I’m pretty much freaking out with excitement:
- Winter became spring for a few minutes and then turned into summer (we had picnics outside every day this week!)
- The Smiling Gardener Academy launched yesterday (more people have joined than I had anticipated and everything seems to be going great so far!)
I use mycorrhizal inoculant in my organic garden almost every time I plant and seed. I wouldn’t plant without it.
Update: About 2 1/2 years after writing this, I decided to start selling the mycorrhizal inoculant I use. You can learn more about it here.
Over 95% of plant species form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi provide nutrients and water to their host plants in exchange for carbohydrates and other goodies.
In fact, many plants will trade more than 50% of their carbohydrates with these fungi and other microbes. Mycorrhizal fungi greatly improve soil characteristics, and are among the most important microbes that form relationships with plants.
If you’re looking for gardening advice on GMOs, I have 2 tips. We’ve known for over a decade that genetically-modified organisms wreak havoc when unleashed into the environment.
And yet The New York Times is still being a good corporate spokesperson, muddying the facts and leaving much room for doubt about whether or not these problems exist (or just practicing good, unbiased journalism, depending on your point of view).
I didn’t have a planting width photo, but I thought this tree was cool
Planting trees and shrubs is easy once you know a few principles. I know you want to give them the best chance at flourishing that you can.
You’ve just spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on these plants, so it makes sense to spend a little bit of time planting them correctly in your organic garden.
When I was a young landscaper, I planted a lot of trees. If the root ball was 36 inches wide, I probably chose a planting width of about 40 inches.