(ARA) - Tracie Andrescik plants up to 200 bulbs every fall. "I guess I'm the bulb queen. I love the waves of color and early spring blooms I get with bulbs," says Andrescik. "I just keep planting more every year because I love the effect and I like to experiment with new bulbs and colors." Fall bulb planting involves planning, and digging lots of holes, but many gardeners feel it's well worth the effort. Using the right tools and following the basic rules of bulb planting help make quick work of this job.
Bulbs can be planted from September through the first part of November. Choose a site that will be sunny when the bulbs are expected to bloom in the spring. Be sure the site drains well -- bulbs don't like soggy soil. Raise the level of the planting bed if you have a site with poor drainage. Prepare the site for planting by adding organic matter and fertilizer to the soil.
Buy bulbs that are large and have a good solid feel. If the weather is warm, store bulbs in a cool place, at about 60 degrees, before planting. In mild-winter climates, bulbs need to be chilled for six weeks prior to planting outdoors. The general rule of thumb for planting depth is 2 1/2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. Keep the site watered, but not soggy, until the ground freezes. In cold climates, mulch beds to protect the bulbs from freezing.
Use the right tools
Choosing the right bulb planting tools can make a big difference. One option is the Bulb Hound stand-up bulb planter from Hound Dog Products. The unique coring spades cut through the ground when you step on the footplate. One of this tool's best features is that the coring spades release the soil core with just a squeeze of the hand lever. "You can use the soil you scooped out with the tool to quickly cover up the bulbs as you drop them in the holes," says Andrescik. Another bulb planting aid is the Planting Auger. It attaches to a cordless drill and bores through the soil -- making quick work of mass bulb plantings.
Plant like a painter
It's better to buy a large amount of one variety and color and plant in a large group, or "drift," instead of buying a few of many different colors or varieties. If you are limited on funds and want more variety, plant no less than five or seven bulbs of a given variety of large bulbs, and no less than 50 of the smaller bulbs. Avoid planting in rows -- bulbs look better in groups or drifts. More planting tips for arranging your bulbs include:
Always plant low in front of high. For example, plant low-growing bulbs such as hyacinth in front of higher-growing bulbs such as tulips.
Plan your plantings with the eye of a painter, grouping together pleasing color combinations.
Plant mass displays of one color set against mass displays of another color. Red and yellow are traditional choices. Other favorites include red and pink, orange and purple and two-tones with a complementary color.
Use masses of bulbs grouped together by color to create geometric shapes in a bed or even right in the lawn.
It's also important to consider the blooming times of flowering shrubs and other perennials as well. You might, for example, want pale violet tulips at the base of a pink flowering crab tree. If you are really ambitious, you can even plant with blooming times in mind so that everything happens when you want it to, in sequence.
Plant your spring garden now and enjoy the colorful show after the long drab winter is over. "It gives me something to look forward to," says Andrescik. "And, best of all it's a great jump start for my garden."