Fall Planting for a Vibrant Spring

Spring-flowering bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus, are the first group of plants to bloom in spring.  However, fall is the season to plant spring flowering bulbs. All too often, we tend to take things easy and before you know it, the ground has started to freeze. Then it’s too late for planting bulbs.

Be sure to purchase your bulbs from a reliable dealer. This assures you of vigorous, disease and insect-free bulbs that have been handled and stored properly. If ordering from a catalog, send your order in by late August. Keep the bulbs dry and place them in a shady, well-ventilated location until you are ready to plant. If packaged, unpack the bulbs at least partially to allow good air circulation.

In Wisconsin you can plant spring-flowering bulbs from mid- September until the soil freezes. Plant them early so the plant can establish a healthy root system before the ground freezes. This will assure a quick start in the spring. Bulbs well-rooted in fall can also resist damage from possible heaving during winter thaws.

Although the foliage and flower-bud from next spring’s plant is already formed inside the bulb you plant, some attention to the soil will give better results, especially in later years. If the soil contains considerable clay, mix in compost, peat moss or rotted manure. Organic material can also improve a light, sandy soil by giving it “body” and improving its ability to hold moisture.

The rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at a depth equal to two to three times their diameter. Plant the bulbs slightly deeper in light sandy soils and a little shallower in heavy soils. After planting, bulbs will start to form roots immediately. They need water for this process. Soak the beds thoroughly after planting, six to eight inches deep. The soil around the bulbs should be moist.  One good soaking is usually enough, unless there is an extended period of hot, dry weather.

Although spring-flowering bulbs are hardy, you should protect plants for winter. Once the ground freezes in late fall, mulch the soil over the bulbs. Use two to four inches of shredded bark, compost, pine needles or other organic mulch material. This will keep the soil frozen once it freezes, and help prevent freeze/thaw damage. IN the spring when the first leaves appear, remove the mulch. New leaves may rot if you allow them to remain in contact with the mulch.

From: UWEX info source

Originally Published: The Weekend Farmer, Fall 2006