Guide: Planting Fall Bulbs
By Marty Ross
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- Big Grip Transplanter (400S)
Keep all your essential garden tools organized and on hand.
Take on transplanting tasks with a tool that’s as durable as it is comfortable.
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and other bulbs that bloom in spring are planted the previous fall. When you buy them, the bulbs already contain the germ of next spring’s blooms. All you have to do is find a spot for them in your garden.
Digging holes for flower bulbs is one of the great pleasures of the fall season.The blue sky and crisp days invite you out into the garden, and — instead of lamenting the season gone by — gives you a chance to enjoy the soft light and mild weather while you plant.
Bulbs sold at garden shops and through mail-order specialists in the fall are almost all imported from Holland, where they are grown to perfection invast fields.
- Healthy, disease-free bulbs should feel firm.
- There should be no mold anywhere.
- The brown skin around tulip bulbs may be cracked or even missing, but the bulbs themselves should be solid and seem just a little heavy for their size.
- Daffodil bulbs, which have layers of brown skin like onions, are usually larger than tulip bulbs.
- Crocus (which technically grow from corms, not bulbs) are among the smallest of all spring-flowering bulbs.
- Buy them all by the dozens: a small investment pays big dividends in the spring.
Planting bulbs is easy with Fiskars’ Garden Bucket Caddy and a Big Grip Transplanter. Strap the caddy on the bucket: it fits perfectly on standard five-gallon buckets and sits tight with a Velcro strap. Fill the bucket with bulbs and head into the garden. The Bucket Caddy has plenty of pockets for hand tools, your camera, and a bottle of water.
Take labels along with you so you can tuck them in as you plant, and you’ll be able to greet your flowers by name next spring. Big wooden labels (you can find them in garden shops and online) are handy to work with and easy to see. Labels mark the bulbs’ place through the winter, and the same is true in summer, when you want to avoid disturbing the resting bulbs.
Spring-flowering bulbs bloom best in sunny spots. They do fine under deciduous trees because the trees will not leaf out until after the bulbs have bloomed. Bulbs also need good drainage: they don’t do well in places where the soil remains a little damp all summer, or where an irrigation system waters regularly all summer long.
Plant bulbs pointed-end up. It’s easy to recognize the top and bottom of a tulip or daffodil bulb; if you’re not sure about some bulbs, plant them on their side, and they’ll still come up in the spring.
Dig a hole about three times as deep as the bulb is tall.
- For tulips, a hole 7-8 inches deep is about right.
- Daffodils should be planted 6-10 inches deep, depending on the size of the bulb.
- Little crocuses and other small bulbs can be tossed into shallow holes only three or four inches deep.
Use the inch marks on your Big Grip trowel to measure the depth of your holes. Each hole dug with a trowel can hold one tulip or daffodil bulb, or perhaps two.
Avoid planting tulips and other bulbs in straight lines — they’ll look much better if they are scattered naturally in small groups throughout a flower bed.
There’s no need to fertilize when you plant. After planting, water well, and mulch with crushed autumn leaves. Mulch looks tidy through the winter, and it insulates the soil against freezing weather. In early spring, your bulbs will easily poke their green shoots up through the mulch. A garden full of different varieties of crocus, daffodils, and tulips will have flowers for weeks, and by the time they are spent, the rest of the garden will be stirring, and so will you.