Planting Ahead: Today’s bulbs are next year’s flowers

Peter Weber, general manager of Weber's Nursery in Winchester, holds a package of Parrot tulips inside his retail store. The nursery has over six dozen varieties of bulbs for planting. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – There’s still time to plant spring- and summer-flowering bulbs.

“Planting in the fall allows for a jump-start to spring growth,” Peter Weber, of Weber’s Nursery & Garden Center in Winchester, said during a fall bulb seminar recently.

While the cooler weather helps make a more enjoyable experience for working outside in the garden, it also aids bulbs in general, he added.

When deciding what bulbs to buy, Weber suggests buying the best that you can find. It ensures the quality and livelihood. Look for bulbs that are large, but firm because they give the best version of the flower in the spring to come, he explained.

Keep the bulbs in a cool, dry location and always use fertilizer.

“This ensures the quality and livelihood,” Weber said, noting that using a fertilizer with high phosphorus allows for good growth and root function.

Even healthy bulbs can fail if they’re not planted correctly. A misconception even some of the most skilled gardeners make, he said, is not planting the bulbs deep enough.  If a bulb is  2 inches tall, then it should be planted 6 inches below. This ensures that no stress will be placed on the bulb or roots.

Spring-flowering flowers like crocuses, hyacinths and daffodils should be planted by the end of September.  Summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies, dahlias and gladiolus should be planted in September and October.

The one thing bulbs will appreciate more than anything is good, rich soil. Anyone living in an area that has a heavy amount of clay or where it stays somewhat dry, Weber suggests mixing compost with the soil for a hearty home.

After the soil is prepped and  ready for planting, it’s important to place the bulbs in the ground correctly. The best way to determine which end is correct is to look to see which end is pointed. That usually determines which side will face up. Weber  suggested planting it on its side if the gardener can’t figure out which end is up.

“It’ll figure itself out,” he said. “Nature has a way of doing things like that.”

Preventing weeds is another dilemma all gardeners incur. Besides being an eye sore, weeds can steal nutrients from the soil and will prevent bulbs from maintaining a healthy environment to grow in. Weber suggests tossing some mulch over the bulbs to prevent weeds from growing.

Once the bulbs are in the ground, they will need water.  This encourages them to send out roots and grow more quickly and also prevents air pockets within the soil, so the bulbs won’t dry out.

Animals love to dig for freshly planted bulbs. If the mulch doesn’t help prevent digging, Webber suggests putting down repellents or blood meal.

“You can also mix small stones within the dirt to prevent animals from getting the bulbs from the ground,” he said. “They won’t know the difference between the two.”

When it comes to design, the sky is the limit.

“Everyone likes to plant their bulbs differently,” he said, adding that there is no right or wrong way to plant bulbs.