Favorite planting tools

jennypat Zone 3b NW MN(Zone 3b NW MN)September 15, 2008

Hi there

I have way to many bulbs ordered for fall planting! I usually just dig a hole with my shovel and plant. But I think I need something a bit better than that this year.

What is everyone's favorite tool to use for planting tulips, snowdrops, and daffodils?


Jenny P

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Last fall, I planted a good thousand bulbs of different types, and I found the easiest way was to just dig with the shovel... I usually plant my bulbs in odd numbered groups of 5 or 7, making the clumps look more natural when they come up, so digging with the shovel was easier for me.

Some say a dibble is easier, some use a bulb auger attached to a cordless drill... others use bulb planters... I still prefer my smaller estate shovel!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 9:12AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

If you have clay soil, or any kind of dense packing soil, donÂt waste you time with those conical ones they sell everywhere next to the bulbs. You will just cut yourself a nice plug of dirt that will take more time to push out of the cone than it would have taken you to use a shovel.

I bought a bulb auger but it burned out my cordless electric drill. I can still use it with a very old corded drill which has much more power. I used it one year when planting an all new bed. It is very hard on the hands, though, and hard to control as it jams and then breaks free.

But now that I am filling in places, I need to feel around first with the hand trowel to make sure I will not be slicing into an existing bulb. The auger can still be a good choice for lots of bulbs in an area where there are no bulbs yet. If I were doing a lawn that would be my choice: but get a narrow diameter one. My 3 inch one is overkill. Some people here swear by a mattock; I may get one myself.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2008 at 2:57PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I purchased a heavy duty bulb planter from White Flower Farm about fifteen years ago. It's on a handle like a spade and has bars that you can step on. I garden on heavy clay, so when I am planting bulbs, I just dig the holes from a standing position first. Each time I dig a new hole, that plug of soil pushes the previous one out the top of the digger. Then I go back and plant the bulbs, using the plugs for under and over fill. If you work with a friend, it really goes fast: one digs, the other plants. This digger won't go through big trees roots, but short of that, it digs almost anywhere. I love it. It's great for transplanting sod and ground covers too. Perfect plugs everytime.

Just a note. If you do garden on heavy clay, especially in the south, don't plant your bulbs as deeply or they may not be able to fight their way on up through the soil. It's a good idea to loosen those plugs a bit as you put them back in the holes.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 7:27PM
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Last summer, late summer to be exact, the purchased bulbs for a new bulb bed we had planned began to really stack up... I think we had somewhere around 1000 bulbs, including tulips, daffodils, crocus, camassia, alliums, and several other spring blooming bulb types... having used bulb planters in the past, without much success, I decided to dig the garden the old-fashioned way!

The bulb bed backs up to a fence, and is about 60-80 feet long by about 6 feet deep. I stripped the sod, laid out my amendments one wheelbarrow at a time, including sand, peat, composted horse manure, and fresh compost from the bottom of my compost pile... I then roto-tilled using a small Mantis type of machine.. then, I dug and turned by hand. A lot of work? You bet! Worth it? Oh yeah! I do all my beds this way now!

It is, without a doubt, a lot of hard work, but properly preparing the soil where you're going to plant bulbs and perennials is so worth the effort! Planting those 1000 bulbs and the perennials that are now growing in between them was a breeze! The soil is fluffy and loose... perfect for easy shoveling... and the planting goes fast and easy! Once everything was in, I added a good three inch layer of wood mulch for protection, and now, I have a very lovely garden that begins blooming in early spring and doesn't stop until frost gets the last asters and mums in fall!

If at all possible, dig and amend your soil now, before you put in bulbs! It makes the bulb planting so much easier, allows them to establish decent root systems before winter, and any additions to the area will be easy! Sure, it's work... but anything worth doing is worth doing well!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 9:53AM
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newbie_in_nj(6b E/Central NJ)

I had to laugh at the story of getting a plug of cement clay stuck in the bulb planter...it's exactly what I experienced. That, after having to throw my whole weight onto stepping bars to even break through top layer. The bulb planter hasn't moved off its place hanging on the garage wall since that first attempt.

I just read yesterday on some forum where a woman actually injured her wrist with one of those drill mounted augers that went out of control. I'd contemplated buying one last year until my niece pointed out to me that in her experience with tools in theaters it was going to buck and twist rather violently in cement clay.

I ended up going with the old fashioned route of hacking top layer of clay with an axe and using shovel for amending soil deeply down to 18-24 inches. I didn't have enough experience to know the amended soil areas would settle below the surrounding areas so I'm going to mound amended areas higher so they hopefully settle even with surrounding areas and not create a mini drainage basin.

I'm going to have to do the same again this year to expand planting areas and I've got to do it before bulb planting.

Gotta check underground where bulbs were last year due to mole/vole activity and a little too much moisture to see contition of bulbs under there. This is going to be a challenge not slicing and dicing all the bulbs except tulips which are in bulb cages.

Seems like there wasn't any transition around here from hot summer to very cool fall weather. The annuals haven't stopped blooming but I've got to get them out of the way to get to my bulb destination...LOL. Always seems like a rush to the next season't planting demands. Haven't gotten the hang of well integrated garden planning/design yet.

Have to check my order status with Scheepers to see when bulbs are supposed to arrive. There's a lot of prep work to do before they arrive.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 3:06PM
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I have a bulb auger and like it for planting lots of tulips. We don't plant them deeply here in TX, only about an inch below the surface, so it goes fast. The tricky partis when you hit a tree root. It can jerk really hard.

I also use a shovel for big swaths. For us, the daffodils go down deep, and the only way to get there is a shovel!

The tulips go on top and I plant most of them, along with the crocus and anemones with a trowel. I do them in beds that already have perrenials in them that have died back and are farily soft so 2000 tulipse get planted in about a week, maybe two.

BTW I've found it's better to spread the planting out some for longer show. Even with early to late tulips, they seem to come on way to quickly when they are all planted at once.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 11:00PM
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newbie_in_nj(6b E/Central NJ)

Cynthianovak, that's a good idea to spread out the Tulip planting to extend bloom time of bed(s).

I thought they'd bloom when they wanted according to genetic imperative no matter when they were planted regardless of root development differences from various planting times. Learn something all the time.

The Tulip blooms lasted about 3 1/2 weeks last spring since I only use the Darwin Hybrids in beds but it can seem short considering the work that went into getting them into the ground. Worth it, though, when I see them blooming and I saw them close up every day from first foliage since I was spraying them like crazy with deer/rabbit repellant just to get to bloom stage.

Can't imagine planting 2,000 tulips (or anything else) but at least their foliage doesn't hang on forever like daffodils here. I finally ended up cutting daffodil foliage back when the end of July rolled around. Couldn't stand it anymore and it just wouldn't dry up.

Your spring bulb colors must be beautiful followed by more with established perennials.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 2:09AM
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