It's Not Too Late to Plant Bulbs

grape hyacinth

Grape hyacinth is a petite bulb option.

The local forecast calls for a wet and cool weekend, but it’s not too late to plant bulbs in Minnesota. Planting bulbs now will give you a great blast of color in the spring, and planting them is not difficult at all, it’s a perfect activity for a fall afternoon.

A few tips on planting bulbs:

  1. Think blobs, not rows. To get the biggest impact, plant bulbs in swathes and ovals rather than in rows. Because so little else will be blooming at the same time as the bulbs, a splash of color is more dramatic if it is larger. Don’t dilute the effect by spreading out bulbs to much.
  2. Dig big holes. Many bulb planting guides recommend digging an individual hole for each bulb. If you are planting in groups, it’s easier to dig out enough room for a dozen or two dozen bulbs, then set them in the space, add a bit of fertilizer and cover them up all at once. Here’s a description of how I did this one year.
  3. Plant for weeks of bloom. From the earliest minor bulbs, such as squill and Siberian iris, to late blooming tulips and daffodils, you can get several weeks of bloom with spring bulbs. In Minnesota, our springs can sometimes be compressed (think spring of 2013) but even in a short spring having a variety of blubs and colors is great.
  4. Read the package. Bulbs always come with some kind of planting guide. Be sure to pick it up and follow the suggestions about planting depth and spacing.
  5. daffodil

    For critter resistance, try daffodils.

    Be aware of your critter situation. Depending on where you live, critters can wreck havoc with your bulb plantings. Voles are a particular problem with bulbs. Recent research from Cornell University found that daffodils, chinodoxa, fritillaria and snowdrops were among the bulbs voles avoided. Tulips are a favorite with voles. Some people plant them in wire cages or line the holes with grit to thwart the critters. Another option is to prized bulbs in pots, hold them in the garage through the winter (water well before storing) and then set them out at the proper bloom time.

  6. Plant a crocus for the bees. Crocus (along with dandelions) are one of the earliest nectar sources for bees and help them survive the lean days of spring. They’re also very cute, so plant a group of crocus for the bees.

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