It is never too early to plan for spring.
Spring bulbs: daffodils, tulips, crocuses, squill and grape hyacinths need to be planted in the fall to provide colour to next spring’s garden.
Bulbs are available for purchase in catalogues, online, grocery, hardware and big box stores, as well as garden centres. Selection and quality will vary between outlets.
Catalogues and online have a larger customer base and can offer more varieties than what can be found locally.
Before making a purchase from a catalogue or online, ask for a guaranteed delivery date before Oct. 1s As the bulbs are being shipped out of warmer locations, they do not always understand that winter comes earlier on the Prairies than some other locations in Canada. It is important that the bulbs are in the ground as early as possible to allow the roots to become established before the ground freezes.
With the exception of from garden centres, bulbs are always sold in packages of between five and 100 bulbs.
Most garden centres sell both packaged and loose bulbs. Purchasing individual bulbs allows people to examine each bulb and choose their own numbers and combinations. Before purchasing bulbs, look at the condition of the bulbs for sale.
Bulbs should be firm, without any cuts or mould present. Look for bulbs that are large for their variety.
The bulb supplies the food that is used to produce roots, leaves and flowers.
If it isn’t in good condition, chances are that it will not make it through the winter to produce flowers in the spring.
With hybridized tulips, bulb size corresponds with the number of years they bloom before they slowly dwindle and disappear.
Size of bulb is determined by the circumference of the bulb at its largest part.
Size information is always included in catalogues, paper or online, but is often absent from packaging. It is then up to the customer to visually compare sizes.
Bulb blooming times are broken into three categories: early, middle and late spring. Early bulbs will start appearing when the snow is melting. The late bulbs often bloom when the bedding plants are being planted.
Mid-season bulbs will overlap the other two blooming times. Time of bloom and length of bloom time is dependent on the weather. The blooms last longer in cool weather. Bulbs do best in full sun to partial shade, but the ones in shade will bloom later than the ones in full sun.
Plant bulbs in soil that has good drainage as bulbs that are constantly wet will rot.
Before planting, read the planting chart on the back of the package.
If that is not helpful, the rule of thumb for planting is to dig a hole two to three times deeper than the height of the bulb. The bigger bulbs such as daffodils and hybrid tulips go into holes that are between five and eight inches (15 to 20 cm) deep.
Once the hole is dug, place the bulb at the bottom of the hole, pointy side up and backfill with soil.
Press firmly on the soil and keep adding until the soil on the hole is level with the surrounding area.
Once the bed is planted, water until moisture has leached into the layer below the bulb.
Periodically check the soil for moisture until the ground freezes, watering when needed. As the snow begins to melt, the bulbs will emerge, adding colour to the landscape.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at email@example.com.