Planting Bulbs in the Fall: Autumn Bulb Planting Tips

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Of all the jobs to do in the fall, the one that I like the best, but hate to do is planting spring-flowering bulbs. It is not the actual job of planting, but I have a tendency to purchase too many bulbs and then I have to find places to plant them and then do the actual planting. Planting 100 small crocus bulbs may not seem like a big task, but it is if you follow the recommendation to plant them 3” apart—and that’s a good starting point when thinking about how to plant bulbs.

How Deep Should I Dig?

I have a very shady lawn and landscape, but I don’t worry too much about the shade from the trees as the bulbs will be up and ready to flower before most of the leaves on the trees open up. When I’m getting ready for planting bulbs in fall, I usually look for open areas where I can dig a large hole about 2 to 3 feet across and about 6 inches deep. The soil in the bottom of the hole should be loose and well-drained. If this is a problem in the area you picked, you may have to dig the hole about 6 inches deeper and add a layer of pulverized soil or humus compost to get back to the 6-inch depth.

What about Fertilizer?

Bone meal makes a great fertilizer for bulbs. I usually sprinkle a couple of ounces or so across the three-foot circle and lightly mix it in. If you don’t have any bone meal, a high phosphorus fertilizer will also work. On most fertilizer bags, the percentage of each nutrient in the bag is indicated by the middle number of the fertilizer analysis, such as 5-15-3. As with any fertilizer, don’t overdo it. It is easy to fall into the “if a little is good, a lot has to be better” trap. You could end up damaging the bulbs.

Once you have all the bulbs in place, slowly sprinkle soil over the bulbs with a shovel. Once you have placed enough soil in the hole so that the bulbs are covered about 50%, you can use a rake to finish the bulb planting job. The soil will create a mound over the area, which is okay. The soil will settle down over time and by next spring, it will be at about the same level as the rest of the landscape bed. It is also a good idea to water the area if rain is not predicted in the near future.

Now that you have completed planting your bulbs, the next part is the hardest – waiting until next spring to see the results of your work.

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Some other tips that may be helpful:

  • If you have a problem with squirrels digging up the newly planted bulbs, lay chicken wire over the area. This can be buried about an inch or so under the soil so it cannot be seen.
  • If you plan to plant single bulbs, use a bulb planter.
  • Place mulch over the area to help keep in moisture and help protect the bulbs. Don’t use more than about 3 inches thick of mulch.
  • Planting bulbs in the fall is not difficult and the results next spring make it worth the effort.

Want your lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood? You take care of the planting, and we’ll take care of just about everything else. Let’s find out how good of a team we can be.