By Mark Konlock, Director of Horticulture, and Lindsay Hendricks, Assistant Director of Horticulture
While many may think the official start of fall means busting out cozy, warm sweaters and sipping pumpkin spice lattes, here at Green Bay Botanical Garden it’s time to think of spring… our spring bulbs display, that is!
Although we don’t have quite a million daffodils (yet!) we do have more than 200,000 bulbs in our show-stopping bulb display and continue to add to our collection on a yearly basis. And though you likely don’t need to add 44,000 bulbs to your garden this fall, it never hurts to add a few handfuls to give your early spring garden a splash of color.
Here are our top tips for planting spring bulbs this fall:
What to Plant
Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus and alliums, to name a few.
When to Plant
After the first frost but before the ground freezes. At the Garden, we typically start planting the first few weeks in October.
Where to Buy
Most greenhouses, nurseries and big box stores sell spring-blooming bulbs in the fall. You can also order from your favorite mail-order catalog. Our preferred sources to order from include Brent & Becky’s Bulbs and Colorblends®.
Remove any annual plants from the area and cut back any perennials. Not only will this make planting easier, but there will be no debris to inhibit bulb foliage growth or detract from your stunning spring display!
How to Plant
Plant bulbs 2-3 times deep as they are wide. For example, a 2-inch bulb should be planted 6 inches deep. To get uniform growth, plant bulbs root side down, so all bulbs emerge from the ground and bloom at the same time. Bulbs planted sideways or upside down will still find their way to the soil surface, it may just take them a little longer.
Our favorite tool for planting smaller bulbs in soft soil is a soil knife with serrated edges and depth markings on the blade. It’s also available in our WPS Trellis Gift Shop! When planting larger bulbs or those planted in hard soil, we use an electric drill with a soil auger attachment. When you see us using these, you know we mean business!
Water bulbs once after you put them in the ground to eliminate air pockets and encourage soil-to-bulb contact. Although you won’t see any foliage or flowers until spring, bulbs establish their roots in fall.
We sprinkle Milorganite® on bulb display beds to help deter critters. For critter-attracting bulbs (mostly tulips) we also spray Liquid Fence® on a weekly basis, until the ground freezes. Once bulb foliage emerges in spring, we continue our spraying regime until the bulbs are finished blooming.
Want to avoid Liquid Fence®? Opt for critter resistant bulbs like daffodils and alliums. Or better yet, come to the Garden and enjoy all of our tulips next spring!
Be sure to check out Mark’s tips on planting bulbs, too.