Guest Author - Nikki Phipps
Bulb gardening, for the most part, is easy. You purchase or acquire them from others, stick them in the ground, and allow nature to go from there, usually with only minimal care required of you. However, there are some dos and doníts you may need to consider beforehand in order to get the most from your bulb garden.
When it comes to buying bulbs, do try to buy bigger bulbs. Bigger bulbs are usually better as they typically produce larger blooms. However, smaller ones can provide better savings. This is up to you. Donít purchase any soft or bruised bulbs. These may not produce healthy plants or thrive in their designated locations.
Do plant your bulbs once they arrive or as soon as possible thereafter; otherwise, store them in a cool, dry area until you are ready to place them in the ground. Placing bulbs in your refrigeratorís crisper is ok; however, donít store them alongside any vegetables. Vegetables emit ethylene gas, which inevitably destroys bulbs. Donít store your bulbs in humid or moist areas. When bulbs are left in these conditions, they will likely rot.
When planting your bulbs, do select the proper location. Most bulbs, not all, generally prefer well-drained soil and sufficient light. Pay attention to the individual requirements of bulbs, only placing them within compatible climates. Donít place your bulbs in wet soil, unless a particular species requires this type of environment. If bulbs are placed within wet areas, they will be prone to developing bulb rot and fail to thrive.
Do practice appropriate planting depths and spacing. Generally, bulbs should be planted about three times as deep as their bulb height. Typical spacing requirements for bulbs include about 1-2 inches for small bulbs, 3 inches for medium-sized bulbs, and 4-6 inches for larger ones. However, keep in mind that specific bulbs may require different needs; therefore, adjust your planting needs accordingly.
Donít over fertilize. Many people falsely believe that bulbs must continually be fertilized in order to thrive. Slow-release fertilizers can be applied once annually with good results. Do this in the fall for spring-flowering bulbs or in the spring for both summer and fall-flowering varieties. Alternatively, you can choose to substitute with organic forms of fertilizer, such as compost or manure. Do apply organic mulch to your garden beds. This not only insulates the ground but also breaks down over time improving soil quality. Suitable choices include compost, bark, and pine needles.
If youíre not planning to harvest seeds, then do practice deadheading of spent flowers. This not only improves your gardenís appearance but also reduces unnecessary energy used by the plant in keeping your bulbs healthy. Donít cut or remove any yellowing leaves. This is a natural and necessary process as their foliage often nourishes the bulbs. Instead, over plant your garden beds with annuals and perennials to mask the fading foliage of bulbs. Do practice proper division of bulbs once overcrowding takes place in order to maintain the overall health of your plants. This is usually done once bulbs are dormant.