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Now that autumn is upon us, if I say “bulbs” to you, do you think, “That reminds me. I’ve got to check the lights for my tree?” Well, that’s a good idea. But that’s not what this column is about. This month’s Hammer Glamour is about planting bulbs under your tree. Or in your flower bed. Or near your front door. Or anyplace you’re going to want some early spring color.

Early spring? Yes, early spring. If you want to be cheered out of your winter doldrums by early blossoms, be bright about it. Plant your bulbs in the fall.

Fall is the time to plant early bloomers like aconites, allums, anemones, crocuses, daffodils, dog-tooth violets, fritillaries, glory-of-the-snow, grape hyacinths, hyacinths, reticulated iris, Siberian squill, snowdrops, star of Bethlehem, summer snowflakes, and tulips. In addition, if you want to add summer bloomers calla lilies, cannas, crocosime, dahlias, gladiolas, lilies, and tuberous begonias, you’re also going to have to plant them in the fall.

Shopping for Bulbs
Select your bulbs just like you select an onion. You want bulbs that are solid and heavy, not mushy. If the papery skin is loose, that’s okay. Stay away from any bulbs that have mold on them or smell funky. If you wouldn’t cook with it, don’t plant it. And, here’s a little-known fact: the bigger the bulb, the bigger the bloom!

Timing is Everything
Check with your local nursery or home center for the ideal planting time in your area, but as a rule of thumb, if you live in zones 2 and 3, you should plant your bulbs in September; zones 4 and 5, October; zones 6 and 7, November; and zone 8, December. If you live in zone 9, you have to pre-cool your bulbs in the refrigerator and frankly, you have so many fabulous flowers to choose from, you don’t even have to bother with this bulb thing.

To be totally honest, you can even plant your bulbs in the dead of winter, as long as the ground isn’t too frozen to dig. But don’t wait until it gets to be truly spring, because the bulbs have to experience a frost in the ground or they won’t bloom. Keep in mind, the later you plant, the later the flowers will bloom and they won’t achieve their full height. However, if they come back next year, they should be perfectly normal.

Plant Yourself
Most spring-flowering bulbs need full sun when they are actually growing, so pick a spot that will be sunny at that time of year. Remember, the trees will not have achieved full leaf at that time so you probably have a lot of location options.

Different bulbs need to be planted at different depths, but as a general rule, plant bulbs at a depth of about four times the height of the bulb. A trowel can work pretty well for small bulbs, but I really recommend getting a bulb planter. That’s a little contraption you jam into the ground, twist, and then yank out a conical chunk of soil. They make a model that lets you dig standing up, but you still have to squat or kneel to plant the bulb, so I don’t see the point.

Once you make your little hole, drop the bulb in pointy-side-up and cover with loose soil. Don’t just drop in that chunk of clay in bulb planter. If your soil is not loose, break it up with your hands and mix in some dried leaves or compost, or try adding a few trowels of bagged potting or garden soil from the nursery center. Top the whole thing off with a couple inches of mulch to keep the moisture in the soil from evaporating.

Now, I know that planting in the fall is not for those who need immediate gratification, which I will admit is usually me. But very honestly, it’s not that hard. And you’ll be so proud of yourself in the spring, when you’ve already forgotten the sore arms, bruised knees and aching back from that afternoon you spent planting bulbs in the fall.

Really, it’s a good idea. Then you can go check the lights for your tree.

To find out more about the wonderful Sarit Catz, visit her website at / Issue 112 - September 2018
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