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Bulb planting 101

While the fall real estate market isn’t quite over, a lot of sellers are already starting to plan for spring! If this is your strategy, then you might want to get some gardening done right now! Early-flowering spring bulbs are a fantastic way to draw attention to a home in April and May. A flush of bright tulips or daffodils on either side of the front door is just the injection of colour that buyers are looking for after a dreary winter. Another great selling tactic is to place fragrant hyacinths along the walkways so that the sweet smells waft as buyers pass by. Even if you are not planning on selling and just want to have a fantastic spring show, planting bulbs at this time of the year is definitely the way to go.

Here is my foolproof way to plant bulbs that will last for many years of enjoyment.

1. Choose the right bulbs! Whether you are shopping at a retail store or ordering online, make sure to look at the growing specs of all of the options. Not all tulips are the same! A few years ago I planted white tulips from big healthy looking bulbs. I didn’t realize that these tulips were giants, growing over 4’ tall. Unfortunately, I planted them in front of a basement window. (They have now been moved) Just like potted plants, bulbs have preferred growing conditions.

2. Flat bottom holes work best. When planting your bulbs, I often group them in clusters in larger flat bottom holes that have good drainage. Bulbs can easily rot if they are in saturated soil. The depth of the hole should be about three times the height of the bulb.

3. Delayed Flowering. Bulbs prefer to be planted ‘Tips Up, Roots down’. I’ve found that if you lay some bulbs on their sides, it takes them a little longer to bloom because they have to grow just a little further. This is an easy way to extend the flowering time from two weeks to three!

4. Amendments and squirrel deterrents. Often, gardeners will add fertilizers, bone meal or other products at this stage to help growth or to prevent squirrels from stealing your tubers. Personally, I use leftover chicken wire with 1 or 2” holes. The tulips have no problem growing through the mesh and the squirrels are unable to get the bulbs out from under it.

5. Back fill and Disguise. Bury your bulbs and chicken wire with soil, being careful to not pack it down too firmly. Once this is done, spend a few minutes to disguise your planted space. Squirrels are attracted to disturbed soil because they think a rival has hidden a nut in that location. I like to add mulch to the whole bed at this point to keep the little critters guessing.

Bulbs really are the perfect way to pre-plan for an amazing spring. Whether you are selling or looking to add a little curb appeal, do the work now and enjoy the rewards after the melt. Just make sure that you wait for the cooler weather…bulbs like soil that is 12C or colder. Be patient, I promise that they are worth it.


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