If you’ve heard me
rant talk about our L O N G winters here in upstate New York you could probably tell that I’m not a huge fan of the bitter cold and never-ending gray skies. Our winter is about 5 months long. Snowfall arrives sometime in November and, if we’re lucky, makes an exit sometime in April. Last year we saw snowfall the week of Mother’s Day. Eeeeeks! Our New York gray skies linger, and color is so important for the soul. So, you may be wondering why I plant over 300 bulbs every November? Because as soon as winter hits we lose all our color, and folks, a world with no color for 5 long months is like eating a cookie without any sugar. Booooooooring! Plant Your Bulbs in November for Spring Color!
“Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not In Kansas Anymore”
By February our long, gray winters have me feeling like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Thank goodness for that Kansas cyclone! If you remember, Dorothy was transplanted from the terribly monochromatic-gray world of prairie-land and dropped into the colorful world of Muchkin Land. When she stepped out the doorway of her fallen home she stepped into a screen of color filled with singing characters and bright cheer. Okay, not to be overly dramatic here…but, this is EXACTLY how I feel at first sight of color come spring time. I hop around the garden looking for tulip sprouts! Not kidding! And, when the tulips finally show up my entire yard looks like a rainbow field of color. Yes!!!! I get that I sound crazy! This is what winter has done to me! hahahahaha.
Folks, planting tulip bulbs is seriously underrated! This easy and fairly inexpensive proactive approach to spring color is very well worth the small amount of work! I purchased my tulip, daffodil and allium bulbs at our local Home Depot for 50% off right now. Some people will tell you that you should plant your bulbs between September and October, but really all you’re looking to do is plant your bulbs once your soil temperatures have cooled and about 6 weeks before ground-freezing frost. I personally like to plant the first week in November because it’s somewhere right between too early and too late. If you plant too early you risk fungus and disease due to unwanted moisture. If you plant too late you risk your bulbs never having the opportunity to root and establish themselves. This is why I plant bulbs in November for spring color!
Dig Your Way to Color
You have two ways to go about digging your hole. Using a hand trowel you can dig individual holes for each little bulb. I find this to be a tedious task. Instead, I like to select several large areas, digging several large holes and clustering my bulbs. Either way the depth of each hole remains the same. The rule of thumb here is that you dig a hole 3-4 times as deep as the bulb is tall. Most of my bulbs were 1.5″ tall so I dug a hole around 5″ deep. For those bulbs that were a little bigger I just dug out the dirt a little deeper.
Mulch, Mulch Baby!
If your planting bed soil is topped with mulch I have a simple little step you might want to consider. Mulch, for those of you who don’t have mulch in your landscape bed, is a great way to moderate soil temperatures and moisture, decrease weed growth and enhance the appearance of your bed. It’s just a top layer that blankets the soil. When digging up your soil to plant your bulbs first remove the layer of mulch and place in a bucket. Then dig your hole, placing your soil in a separate bucket. Once your bulbs have been placed, simply toss your bucket of soil over your bulbs and then top with your mulch. This will keep your beds from getting muddy.
Plant your bulbs root side down and pointy side up. Also, plant your bulbs about 6″ apart from one another. Like I mentioned earlier, I like to dig one large hole and place several of my bulbs all in one local area. I feel like it makes the process move much faster. Plus, it allows me to cluster my bulbs. When they sprout in little groupings the blanket of color is bolder, rather than single stem tulips sparsely planted throughout the garden bed. I probably dig around 20 large holes in total, with about 15 bulbs in each hole. Remember, I like A LOT of color. 😉
Once you’ve placed all your bulbs and topped with soil make sure you give your little color munchkins a good watering.
Please, PLEASE Be True!
When I moved to New York I learned from my friend about a cute little creature who brings wisdom to the farming world. For those of you who don’t know him, let me introduce you to the Wooly Bear Caterpillar. I just HAD to snap and share a picture of my new best friend. As folklore has it, this little guy’s coloring of black and brown carries significant meaning. It indicates the severity of the upcoming winter. The longer the black band the more severe the winter will be. Gasp… could this be true? I mean, he barley has any black at all, which means winter should be nothing but a cold breeze! In all of the years I’ve lived here (almost 8) I’ve never seen an almost all-brown Wolly Bear Caterpillar. Even though science has “demythed” this folklore I’m holding tight that this guy is the real deal! Maybe Dorothy will see color earlier than she thinks this spring! Fingers are crossed…tight.
I hope this little tutorial has encouraged you to plant bulbs in November for spring color. Believe me, if your immediate world of winter is absent of color like mine, this one little action brings you rainbows of happiness. It also gives you something to look forward to as you get closer to the beginning of spring. :).