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.
A double-stemmed tulip from our garden
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?