October marks the opening of the planting season for "spring flowering" bulbs. The best time to plant is when soil temperatures fall below 60 degrees, usually October to early November.
Bulbs can be planted in beds, rock gardens, in ground covers such as vinca, pachysandra and ivy, along the edge of shrubs and under trees.
Most species prefer sun to light shade, although many thrive under the canopy of deciduous trees.
Good drainage is essential. If the soil is a heavy clay, add organic matter for improved drainage and aeration. Fertilizer should be incorporated and the beds thoroughly prepared before planting.
Many fertilizers can be used successfully except the high nitrogen fertilizers, which should generally be avoided. One recommendation is to apply about 2 pounds of 5-10-15 per 100 square feet at planting; reapply at flowering.
Planting depth is important. Large bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are usually planted about 8 inches deep. Smaller bulbs like crocus and muscari are planted more shallow.
Spacing is also important. For a good show the first year, large bulbs should be spaced about 6 inches apart and smaller ones about 3 inches apart.
Many gardeners however, prefer to increase the spacing to reduce the frequency at which the bulbs must be dug and divided.
Give the bulbs a good watering after they have been planted. Normal rainfalls usually provide enough moisture after that, but in dry weather, water as necessary to keep the soil moist.
If weeds grow in the beds, they are best removed by hand. Be careful when using a hoe or other tools. They can easily damage bulbs or emerging stems.
When the flowers fade, cut them off to prevent seed formation. Removal of the foliage before it withers and dies naturally in the late spring to early summer will damage the bulb.
A little planning and work in the fall will reap beautiful rewards next spring.