When to Plant Bulbs

By Renee Gerber , last updated September 22, 2011

As a home gardener, you will no doubt plant a great many different types of plants in your garden and front lawn., including flowers and bulbs Certain flowers and other types of plants start off as just a bulb and therefore have to be planted in the ground at an appropriate time of year. Many of these are spring blooming plants, and inexperienced home gardeners may not know all the facts about planting their bulbs. However, there are a few important rules of bulb planting that you can learn and adhere to.

The one thing that most people do not realize is that, regardless of what type of plant bulbs you have, you can plant them at pretty much any time of the year. More often than not, home gardeners, especially those who are inexperienced, believe that the entire ground is frozen once the first frost occurs. However, this is actually not the case, as frost generally only affects plants that are growing above ground rather than those that are underground. Keeping that in mind, new bulbs need to be embedded under the ground by several inches. To that end, they will be protected from frost and insulated due to being buried underground.

In spite of this fact, it is generally far better to plant your bulbs a few weeks to a month prior to the first frost. This will ensure that once your bulbs start to bloom in the spring, they will do far better due to the fact that they will have an adequate amount of time in which to establish themselves in the ground. Depending on the region in which you live, this point of time will vary. For instance, if you live in the Northeast, first frost generally occurs anywhere between late October and the middle of November. Therefore, planting your bulbs in late September or early October would be appropriate.

If you are unsure as to when the first frost hits your area and need to know exactly when to expect it, you can use the digging test method. Retrieve a shovel and attempt to dig a hole in your garden. If you find it to be a simple task, then the ground has not yet frozen over. On the other hand, if you have difficulty and need to put in extra effort to perform the digging, then this is a sure sign that the ground is already frozen. In this instance, if you have not yet planted your bulbs, it is best to store them away for the winter.

Preparing the soil in your garden or front lawn area is essential when you are planning to plant your bulbs. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is that the soil should be well draining. Bulbs require this condition for healthy growth and development, so if you have a particularly thick soil that consists of clay, you will have to make improvements to it. The addition of mulch, compost materials and peat moss can certainly help, as it will add better drainage. Make sure to place this layer over the top foot to 18 inches worth of soil for best results. Additionally, you will want to ensure that the pH level of the soil is between 6 to 7 in acidity. You can have a soil test performed if necessary, and the addition of limestone can certainly help.

Of course, the planting location is extremely important as well. Consider the type of bulbs you have and what type of light conditions they require. You will want to ensure that they are planting in an appropriate location so that they can grow their best. For instance, if you have bulbs that require full access to sunlight, you will not want to plant them underneath a tree.

You will also have to fertilize the bed of the bulbs once you plant them. Whether they are spring or summer bulbs, phosphorous is largely required as an addition to the soil, as it will promote good root growth. While the majority of bulbs are planted between six to eight inches underground, you will have to add phosphorous directly into the soil, at these depths. This is because the substance does not move very much once it is in the soil. A good 10-10-10 water soluble fertilizer and two cups of bonemeal is also a good addition to the soil to promote the growth of the bulbs. However, avoid giving your bulbs fertilizer once they have begun to bloom. Doing so can have adverse reactions out of your plants, including bulb rot.

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