Baltimore Sun

It's bulb season!

Photo credit: Associated Press

This time of year always presents the same problem for me in the garden.


Where, exactly, are the spring bulbs planted?

I need to know, or remember, if I am going to add to the mix in a visually pleasing way - and not dig right into a patch of sleeping bulbs.


But that never stops me from buying bulbs and tip-toeing around the garden, trying to find a spot for them.

Here is some bulb advice I have collected. But the most important is: Get busy. It is time to plant.

Here in the mid-Atlantic, we have plenty of time to get bulbs in the ground. The rule of thumb is get it done before Thanksgiving.

Don't start too early or the bulbs will sprout in the warm ground and, although they won't bloom, they will dissipate their stored energy.

I don't plant until late October and I keep my bulbs in a fridge in the garage until then so they stay cool.

If you live north of here, the ground might be cool enough by the end of September.

Remember to throw in a handful of bulb food when you plant. You will feed them again when they emerge in the spring, but now is the time to give them something, too.

If you have trouble with squirrels or voles eating your bulbs, you can plant them surrounded by chicken wire or a box or bulb cages or stones or any of the off-putting chemical smells sold at your garden center.


Or you can do what I do. Go with daffodils and narcissus. There is so much variety in these two species that you will never be disappointed. And their bulbs are toxic to critters.

Remember, squirrels are smart enough to notice where the ground has been disturbed and might figure out where to dig. And using bone meal, instead of a synthetic fertilizer, is a dead giveaway.

Plant bulbs with the tips pointed skyward and the feathery roots pointing down. The flower will always find its way to the sun, but it takes time and energy. Why not make it easier?

Mulch after planting and watering. Mulch will help stabilize the ground temperature, prevent freezing and thawing and keep the ground from heaving and dislocating your bulbs.

And remember, you can always pot bulbs. I did it last fall with great success. I covered the pots with pebbles to discourage creatures and I huddled them close together on the deck under a little protection. Despite two enormous snowstorms, my tulips bloomed! and I simply moved the pots to bare spots in the garden!