Why Wait to Plant
By: Brent and Becky
With bulbs appearing in stores earlier and earlier each year, many of us can’t help feeling swept up in the need to plant earlier, too. However, for those who have excitedly planted their newly purchased bulbs into the ground in August and even September, they have been sadly disappointed by a bare garden in spring. There can be too much of a good thing for anything - and the convenience of a selection of bulbs early on in the season has spoiled many gardener’s hopes once the temperatures warm.
The Lifecycle of a Bulb
Typically coming from mountainous regions, spring flowering bulbs have adapted to the cold winters and hot, dry summers of their habitat. They are used to making their growth in the short span of time in spring when the weather is nice and there’s plenty of moisture.
In summer, when it’s hot and dry, the bulbs move into their dormancy period. Underground, they are protected from the harsh elements, preventing them from withering and dying. Then, in autumn, as the temperatures fall, they take advantage of the easier cool weather to initiate their roots.
Why Plant in Fall
Since they are used to being dormant in the summer, bulbs typically have a much harder time setting roots earlier in the season when it’s warm. They also don’t deal with moisture very well then, either.
When the weather is wet and warm, bulbs can easily become stressed and susceptible to fusarium. Nicknamed basal rot, fusarium is much like the cold/flu that we often catch when our immune systems are compromised. It causes the bulb to mold, rendering them lifeless for the coming year.
In fall, though, when the weather has cooled to an ideal 50-60℉, any moisture that the bulbs are exposed to will not put them at risk for catching fusarium. In fact, it actually provides them with the ideal, comfortable conditions they need to quickly and effectively set their roots. Below 50℉, they will continue setting their roots, too - just at a much slower pace.
These roots are very important since they’re what keeps the bulb from freezing in the winter. Without them, bulbs can easily freeze when the soil gets cold. When roots are set, though, the physiology of the bulb changes as it gets ready for the cold. They become more elastic in nature, giving them an almost antifreeze-like quality that keeps them healthy and strong even in the depths of winter. Years of growing in harsh mountain climates has made our bulbs skilled at navigating the harshest sides of seasonal weather and they’ve adapted well to change with the seasons and emerge gorgeous in the spring.
Planting Your Bulbs in Fall
Since most people don’t have a soil thermometer to know when to plant, we recommend waiting until just around the time when you see your first frost in the fall, but before the ground freezes solid.
To ensure the bulbs will go through dormancy in summer next year, you’ll need to find somewhere to plant them where they can sleep in a dry bed. Plenty of well-draining soil and sunshine should do the trick!
Once you find that perfect place, begin planting about 6” deep. The golden rule for planting bulbs is to plant as 3x as deep as the bulb’s height. Given that most bulbs are 2” tall, a hole 6” deep should do the trick. Drop your bulb in the hole with the pointy end up and cover with soil.
As we know, moisture is key to promoting root growth, so if you happen to be experiencing a dry fall, it is very important that you remember to water your bulb frequently. If there is adequate rainfall, though, chances are you may only need the occasional watering before the snow falls.
Buying Bulbs Early
Just because it’s best to plant them later in fall, doesn’t mean you can’t purchase your bulbs in advance and take advantage of them hitting the store shelves. If you do choose to purchase your bulbs early, you’ll just need to store them in a cool, dry place until it’s time to plant.
While many may recommend the refrigerator as an excellent place to store them, be wary of practicing this yourself. Many refrigerators also house many fruits and vegetables, which give off ethylene gas. When bulbs are exposed to this, they tend to abort their blooms, which can be very disappointing to discover in spring.
Instead, store your bulbs in a cool, dark room with plenty of air circulation. This could be a pantry or a basement - whatever works to keep your bulb comfortable until proper planting time.
The importance of planting bulbs before winter is to promote a good root system, which will more than likely give you a spectacular bloom and performance in the spring. While you may be able to purchase them early, a little patience before planting will go a long way to ensuring you get the most from your bulbs as possible.
View Our Selection of Fall Planted Bulbs - Now Shipping!
Order Online from Brent & Becky's today!
Questions: (804) 693-3966
Toll-free Ordering: (877) 661-2852
Share this post
- Tags: crocus, fall gardening, fall planting, garden, how to plant in the fall, planting in the fall, why wait to plant