Archive for Thursday, October 9, 2008

There’s still some time to plant

October 9, 2008

Now that summer is gone, it may seem like planting season is over, but there are some ornamentals you can put in the ground before winter. Think ahead to next spring and decide where you want your spring-flowering bulbs to bloom. Late September through October is the perfect time to plant bulbs such as crocus, tulips and daffodils. These bulbs go into the ground in the fall so they can meet their chilling requirement, allowing them to bloom in the spring.

You’ll want an area for these bulbs that receives full sun, or at least mostly sun, and just about any soil type can be made to work. If your soil is high in clay, till in some organic matter (compost, peat moss or even leaves) before you plant the bulbs. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for best results. On average, about three pounds of a complete fertilizer such as a 5-10-5, or something similar, will need to be put down. A simple soil test can tell you the pH of your soil, as well as the amount of organic matter, phosphorus and potassium in your soil.

Bulbs need good soil aeration, so prepare the planned planting area at least 12 inches deep with tillage. You could till eight inches deep and then till in four inches of organic matter to achieve the 12 inches of soil depth.

The next thing to consider is the actual depth that the bulbs need to be planted. Tulips and hyacinths need to be about six inches deep, and daffodils need to be six to eight inches deep. Typically, the smaller the bulb, the shallower it is planted. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that bulbs are normally planted two to three times as deep as the bulb is wide. For example, a tulip bulb that is two inches wide should be planted six inches deep. Another important thing to know is that the planting depth is the distance from the bottom of the bulb to the top of the soil.

Spacing of bulbs varies with bulb size. Usually you should keep four to six inches between larger bulbs, and can plant as close as one to two inches between smaller ones. Everyone has different ideas about bulb arrangement, but most people believe that placing the bulbs in irregular clumps gives a better flower display than planting them individually in rows.

After you place the bulbs at the proper depth, replace half the soil and add water. This settles the soil around the bulbs and ensures good soil/bulb contact. After that, replace the rest of the soil and water again. You won’t see any top growth during the fall and winter, but the bulbs will be developing roots. During the fall, be sure to keep the soil moist (but not too wet). You can put some mulch over the planted bulbs to provide a buffer between the soil and winter’s elements. Too much freezing and thawing can heave the bulbs towards the soil surface and in extreme cases move them completely out of the ground.

It seems like a long time from now, but if all goes well, next spring you should be enjoying the much welcome sight of colorful flowers blooming in your yard. A true sign that another winter has come and gone.

If you have any questions about this article, or any related topics, feel free to contact me at the Leavenworth County Extension Office on the corner of Hughes and Eisenhower roads in Leavenworth, or call (913) 250-2300. I can also be reached via email at


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