Bulb Guilt, Bulb Help and Guerilla Bulb Planting


Every year, starting in October, the packages of bulbs start arriving “unexpectedly” from those insane mail-order purchases made in the madness of the most recent bout with spring fever. Ordering several hundred bulbs seemed like a good idea at the time. Half the time bulbsstart pouring in with no real memory of having ordered them.Spring bulb catalogs really take advantage of the weak and the impulsive. And we know who we are. What a miracle! What a coincidence! The catalogs hit the mailbox at the same time the bulbs are in full bloom. So, the Mastercard is maxed and the promises of a backyard Kuekenhoff Garden or at the very least, a mini Van Lierop’s, dances in the distance.

Oh, yeah…now I remember ordering…..

Reality and acceptance hit and now I have all of these bulbs…in boxes…in little net bags…in paper bags…in ventilated plastic bags….WHAT DID I DO? WHAT WAS I THINKING?


It would be an amazing coup for some enterprising, hort-savvy strong-backed, supple-kneed garden lover to have a short-term, seasonal vocation as “Master Bulb Planter”. He/she could charge more for planting than the worth of the bulbs and even avid gardeners would gladly pay. Planting bulbs is not fun and the rewards are a good seven months away.The timing for fall bulb-planting begins to sound like punishment.

The theory is…the worse the fall bulb-planting weather, the better the outcome. Don’t plant bulbs when the ground is dry or hot.. This pretty much leaves out the whole month of September, the South Sound’s only month with warm weather and no rain. So, when the rains begin and the mud accumulates, THAT”Sthe perfect time to plant spring bulbs. The more miserable the weather, the more success with the bulbs. Barring the emergence of a neighborhood entrepreneur, it’s time to slog your way into bulb planting mode.


First of all, “dress appropriately”. Cover yourself with friend-Gortex if you have it. Otherwise, you’ll be stripping by the washing machine when you’re finished. If you did it right, you’ll be wet and muddy. With any luck, the weather was awful. Complaining is an added bonus if the weather was really bad.

To make it easy, to get in and out of the muck fast,follow these 4 steps.

1.Forget those wimpy little aluminum screw-in bulb planters. Use a shovel or something like a short-handled, Bachi Gata Hoe. It goes a LOT faster.

2. Add bone meal or bulb meal in the hole you have created (you can’t really overdo the bone meal or bulb meal…a tablespoon per bulb is about right). Stir it up a little.

3.Plant bulbs in clumps. Don’t worry about which way is “up”. They right themselves. Theoretically, bulbs should be planted 3 times their diameter.Make it easy. Plant large bulbs like daffodils and tulips 5-6” deep. Plantsmall bulbs like crocus or chionodoxa 2-4” deep.

4. Here’s the important part. Place bulbs in uneven numbers, untouching and in groups). Uneven just looks better. Untouching prevents them from getting the dreaded botrytis (your basic bulb fungus).Group planting gives the impression of “mass planting”. Thirty bulbs planted in 3 square feet looks like a display.Three bulbs planted in 30 square feet looks pointless.

And now…”fugettaboutit”

Remember how you totally forgot that you ordered the bulbs seven months earlier? You have seven months to forget what you just planted. You can be equally surprised next May.

Article reprinted with permission, Premier Media Group and South Sound Magazine, Tacoma, WA