The bulbs you plant this fall will be the first flowers in your garden next spring and tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, irises and alliums just begin to scratch the surface of bulbs you can plant.
That’s right; fall bulbs need to be planted now in order to bloom once spring comes around. You can order your bulbs online, from a catalog or purchase some from a local nursery. Remember to buy a lot of them. First, one bulb equals one flower. For a real punch of color in your garden and to help the flower stand out, you’re going to need a lot of them. Second, not every bulb may bloom. You should buy more than you think you’ll need to help negate any duds in your garden.
Planting the bulbs is generally pretty easy. Just remember that bulbs don’t like “wet feet” and try to avoid planting them in areas where water collects, like at the bottom of a hill. A good time to begin planting bulbs is in early fall when nighttime temperatures are in between 40 and 50 degrees, but the ground isn’t frozen yet.
Plant the bulbs at a depth of about three times their width, with their pointy end up. Some bulbs may be a little tricky deciphering which end should go up—do your best and remember that these bulbs are very hardy. Even if you accidentally plant the bulb upside down, it will likely find its way to the surface once spring rolls around.
Plant your bulbs soon after purchasing them. They are living plants and will not survive more than a couple of weeks out of the soil. Don’t bother planting any bulbs you have leftover from last year or from the spring—they are likely dead and it would be a waste of your time.
Be sure to water your bulb really well after you plant it. If you’re experiencing a longer summer than usual you may want to water your bulbs once a week or so but in general you should be able to plant the bulbs, water them once, and forget about them until spring.
Feel free to get a little creative with your bulbs! With just a little bit of planning you can create a beautiful flower garden. When choosing bulbs consider how tall they are likely to be (that information should come with the bulbs) and plant some of varying heights. Be sure to plant the smaller ones in front! I personally love the look of purple irises and yellow daffodils behind a mix of colorful tulips.
When you’re thinking about how you want your garden to look next year also consider which bulbs are early-bloomers and which ones will bloom later in the spring and design your garden accordingly. With this in mind you may want to plant late-blooming tall flowers in front of early-blooming shorter flowers as the taller flowers will hide the wilting and dead leave of the early-bloomers.
However you decide to design your spring flower garden, get outside and enjoy these beautiful, golden, warm days of October while they last. Winter will be here soon!
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a beehive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.