Planting Bulbs

newbiegardener101September 2, 2009

I ordered darwin tulips, daffodils, and crocus bulbs and they will soon be arriving. I am wondering what the best way is to plant them to increase drainage and keep them from rotting. Once they are planted, I plan to leave them be and not dig them up each year. I have mostly fertile clay soil that does tend to get soggy during the winter & spring. I have heard recommendations to put compost underneath each bulb and have also heard the advice to put pea gravel under each bulb. What do you recommend? Should I mix the compost with the pea gravel or just do one or the other? Last year, I had some tulips just planted in the dirt and they seemed to do fine.

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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

The only ones I'd be concerned about would be the crocuses.

If you are planning to use compost I'd dig out the area where I was going to do my bulb setting to about 12 inches deep and be very sure that the clay in the bottom of the hole wasn't left 'sealed' to make a near-waterproof hollow. That's fatal.

Then I'd add a big bucket load of compost - OLD compost - and mix it through the soil. Why 'old'? Because material that is still rotting down can go sour and plant-toxic in some clays.

I'd leave the ground lumpy. I know smooth looks prettier but lumpy is less likely to form into mini-ponds.

Plant so you have at least six inches of loosened soil for the roots to go down into.

If you can plant into 'ridges' - like you would do for potatoes - that will help with drainage. Making raised beds is also very beneficial for improved drainage - so long as you don't just dump the soil into the forms. It definitely needs that compost.

With the crocuses I find that grit and compost plus soil in a patch or a pocket that's a bit higher than the surrounding area gives them the sharp drainage they need. I have one particular patch at the edge of a gravel path which drops away into a rain-gathering area and they do just fine year on year.

You can also 'cheat' by growing them in pots with a good mix and them plunging the pots into an area you've set aside in your planting scheme so they 'suddenly emerge in flower'. ;-)

I do gardening for a friend who has zero topsoil and endless sticky yellow clay. Amending the soil with compost year on year has ensured that he can grow various bulbs with only a slight rise from the clay base. Six inches works well, and catches the sun's warmth, too. That really helps.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 11:09PM
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newbiegardener101

Thank you! Your insight and advice was very helpful.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2009 at 5:30PM
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