The forests are turning to gold as autumn sweeps into the valley. Frost may have touched your gardens already, and the race is on to get your yard cleaned up before winter sets in. Long cold winters are followed by a fast and furious spring planting season, and it never feels like there’s enough hours in the day once we can be back working in the soil. Planting bulbs in the fall for Spring flowering blooms is a double bonus - not only do you get to enjoy the earliest blooming flowers after a dreary winter, but you get to tuck them into the ground when cleaning up your garden before winter, and forget about them all winter long, only to be pleasantly surprised when they ground thaws and they push their green tips forth. Nothing is more exciting than watching the earth spring back to life after a season of rest.
Tulips and Daffodils are two of the hardiest bulbs you can plant, and they love a long cold stretch over winter to store up energy for a beautiful spring show. Their needs are simple, and they require minimal space, making them a perfect addition to any garden no matter where you grow.
How do I plant my bulbs?
Tulips & Daffodils must be planted in October or November in all growing zones. They need 3 to 4 months of consistent cold temperatures to bloom in the spring. The ideal time to plant is 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes totally solid, allowing the roots to start forming on the bulbs. This helps them anchor into the ground and prevent them from popping up when the ground shifts with frost. If you have received your bulbs before you are ready to plant them, store them in a cool well ventilated location until you are ready to do so, but get them in the ground before winter! If you worry you have missed the best planting window, just know that over at Creekside we have planted daffodils with a pickaxe in late November and they still bloomed beautifully. If your panic over planting is that you don’t have the perfect location for them just yet, you can always plant them in a temporary location for one year, and then move them next fall, as we have also done!
When planting your bulbs, the most important factor is always location, location, location! Watch your garden on a rainy day, where does water pool and collect? Do not plant there! Choose a well draining spot for your bulbs. Soggy soil can lead to bacteria or fungal problems, so choose wisely! Bulbs can be planted in full sun or partial shade. If you plant your bulbs in a shaded location it will take longer to thaw and dry out in springtime, so be extra careful that you have chosen a well draining location.
Once you have chosen your location, dig a hole about 6 inches deep. Bulbs like to be planted at 2-3 times the depth of their total height, which means they are normally planted about 5-7 inches deep. A 6 inch hole is a safe bet! If you are planting bulbs to let them naturalize (letting them bloom in your garden) plant them about 4 inches apart so that they have space to multiply, setting them in the hole with the pointy end UP. Daffodils especially will multiply like crazy, so give them more like 6 inches of space between each bulb and you will soon have many more bulbs blooming than what you started with!
Do as we Say not as we Do -
When growing tulips for cut flowers we plant them at ‘eggs in an egg carton spacing’ because we pull the bulb with the stem and plant new ones every year - growing for cut flowers takes different requirements than growing for landscaping! This tightly packed spacing is solely if you are growing for the longest stems possible, and planning on replanting the bulbs every year. If you would like to let your tulips naturally grow and multiply, give them 4" of space. If you are wondering how and why we harvest the bulb for cut flowers - thats a post for another day!
Once you have laid out your bulbs, gently fill the hole back in with soil. In colder climates such as ours, we like to cover our tulips with a fluffy 6” layer of straw mulch to help protect the bulbs from the shoulder season freeze & thaw cycle that can push the bulbs out of the ground. In milder climates where winters include a lot of rain, mulch can hold onto too much moisture and create a soggy environment for your bulbs, as well as attracting pests such as voles who love to hide under it and eat your bulbs. Unless you are planting right before a long cold winter such as a Bulkley Valley winter, we wouldn’t worry about mulching your bulbs, they are more than hardy enough! If you do decide to mulch, remove it in spring once the green tips of the bulbs have started to poke through the soil. Once the bulbs are all up you can gently spread the mulch back around the growing plants to keep the weeds down.
Daffodils and Tulips could not be simpler to grow, and with such a wide variety of colors and styles, there is something for every gardener! We look forward to you being just as obsessed with them as we are!