Now that temperatures are cooler, it’s time to plant your spring bulbs. These little packets of flower power are an excellent choice for adding bold, beautiful colour to your spring garden. With minimal effort, bulbs will reward you year after year with a continuous parade of colour from early spring to the beginning of summer.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
What is the difference between seeds & bulbs?
For novice gardeners, the choice between bulbs and seeds may be tricky. All bulbs start out as seeds. Seeds are new plants that have not yet grown, where bulbs have completed the growing phase. They are plants that live under the ground but are visible above the ground when their leaves grow up through the surface. Bulbs are the entire life cycle of a plant from beginning to end, where seeds are only the final stage of a plant’s reproduction.
When is the best time to plant bulbs?
Also called hardy bulbs, spring bulbs need several weeks of cold temperatures to break their dormancy and flower to their full potential. They are planted in the fall and spend winter in the ground. Be careful not to plant your bulbs too early, though. If the temperatures are too warm, you risk confusing the bulb into thinking it’s spring. For most areas of Southern Ontario, the best time to plant spring-blooming bulbs is between late September and mid-November. It is important to wait until the temperatures fall below 10C, giving the bulbs a cool and healthy temperature to be planted and establish some root growth before the ground freezes.
Which bulbs should I choose for my garden?
While every garden is unique, almost all bulbs prefer full sun (at least 6-hours per day) and well-draining soil. There are hundreds of varieties and colours of bulbs from which to choose. Think about your favourite patterns of colour combinations and consider when the bulbs will flower, whether early, mid-, or late season. With a little bit of planning, you can have bulbs just starting to open as others finish for an ongoing show of flowers. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to start with high-quality bulbs that are plump and firm.
Popular bulb choices for regions across Ontario include:
Garlic is an excellent choice for gardeners who want to have some edible options upon the arrival of spring. Do not use garlic purchased from a grocery store. It may not grow in your soil conditions. Instead, choose garlic from your nursery, which is best suited for your growing region.
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Create impact with groupings
Many types of bulbs can be planted together to create a multi-level and multi-colour effect in your garden. Plant them in big, irregular groupings of at least five to seven per square foot (the more bulbs, the more significant the impact) rather than straight rows. This will allow them to have enough space to grow properly while creating showy clusters of flowers. It’s OK if some bulbs end up being closer to each other than the recommended spacing from the package – this will create a more natural look.
How do I plant them?
Now that you have chosen the bulbs for your garden, you may wonder which way is up? Bulbs should be planted pointed side up. If you don’t see a pointy side, look for where it appears that the roots come out—that end goes down. Dig a hole approximately two to three times as deep as the diameter of the bulb. This will give it adequate coverage over the winter months and allow it to emerge easily in the spring. If you are unsure, plant the bulb on its side. Be sure to give your bulbs a good watering after you plant them to encourage them to spread roots and become established. This can also help eliminate air pockets in the soil that could cause your bulbs to dry out.
Once planted, cover the bulb with soil and apply a slow-release fertilizer to provide nutrients over the winter months. Never mix fertilizer or fresh manure into the planting hole with the bulb, as this can burn the bulb and its roots.
For many garden critters, bulbs are a tasty and filling treat during the long winter months. Protect your bulbs by using a variety of deterrents such as repellents, fencing, or netting. Bone and blood meal can also help protect your bulbs while acting as a fertilizer as well.
While all bulbs are perennials that will repeatedly bloom with the proper care for up to 5 years, there is also a category of bulbs that will naturalize. These bulbs bloom year after year, and over time, the flowers increase as they, in turn, produce more bulbs. Snowdrops, crocus, iris and some varieties of tulips make ideal choices for gardeners who want to add naturalizing bulbs.
You can often find the bright green shoots of spring bulbs poking through the final patches of snow in the last days of winter. From crocuses and snowdrops to tulips and allium, bulbs can turn your garden into a flower factory of vibrant colour through all the stages of spring.
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As you begin your fall bulb planting, the gardening experts at Sheridan Nurseries are here to help create a lush and long-lasting garden.