Boo! Halloween is always a marker of the winter to come. Here in the high country of New Mexico, the tallest mountain peaks are starting to collect some snow and the frosts down in town become harder and more frequent. This is also the time of year when the action in our gardens moves underground.
Still time for Planting Bulbs
Planting bulbs are the best way to follow in nature’s footsteps by going underground and finishing our garden chores for the year.
- The key to a great display of the small bulbs is to plant a lot of them. Planted in drifts (or patches) of 48 or more so their small flowers become a huge pool of color when they come into bloom together.
Layering a Bulb Planting
Layering your bulbs is a great way to maximize your spring bulb displays. In nature, different bulbs establish themselves at different depths in the soil, so we can imitate nature by doing it ourselves. I like to plant a large bulb and a small bulb (or two) in the same planting hole. It’s a great labor saver and makes the spring display that much longer and more colorful.
- For example, the large garden daffodils or Darwin perennial tulips need to be planted at a depth of about 8 inches. So after dropping a daffodil or tulip into its hole and covering it with a few inches of dirt, you now have a 4 inch deep hole into which you can drop a couple of Crocus, miniature Iris or Muscari. Then fill the planting hole to ground level and it’s done.
- When planting bulbs be sure to have a bucket or wheelbarrow with a mixture of Yum Yum Mix (or Yum Yum Mix Winterizer), compost and soil ready. This way you can enrich the soil by simply filling the holes with the soil/compost/Yum Yum Mix blend.
- Water in your new bulb transplants with a good soaking and where appropriate, apply a couple inches of mulch to tuck them.
These bulbs will live together harmoniously and multiply themselves to make even bigger showier patches over time. In places of great bulb diversity like South Africa (the world’s epicenter for bulb species) there are often hundreds of bulbs and dozens of species in every square yard of ground, all growing at different depths in the soil.
The above ground plants are also moving underground. Woody plants are busy transporting accumulated nutrients from the stems and leaves down into the roots, which are actively growing with the onset of the short days of fall. Perennials are doing the same thing, moving their stored nutrients from the dying stem and leaves down into their roots and crowns. This is, in part, why fall planting of many plants is so ideal. All of their energy goes into growing and expanding their root systems. So don’t cut back your perennials until spring and wait to do pruning of woody plants until December or next year.