Planting Tulips, Part 2

– Posted in: Garden chores

Yesterday I told you how I finally realized species tulips planted in the peony bed would help to bridge the bloom gap of late spring. I got the tulips chosen and purchased, and now I’m going to show you how I planted them.

The Smartest Way to Plant 150 Tulip Bulbs

But first let’s talk about the most efficient way of planting them, just so you know my way is not the only or best way. The most efficient way of planting them would be to dig a foot-wide, fifteen-foot long trench some four to six inches deep. Then you would place all the bulbs in the trench, somewhat randomly but more or less evenly spaced. And the truly smart person would have placed a tarp alongside the trench upon which to dump the removed soil, so all that dirt could be quickly replaced into the trench after the bulbs were planted.

The Way I Planted 150 Tulip Bulbs

But I didn’t plant the tulips that way. I knew there were crocuses and snowdrops in the bed and I wanted to save and replant them with the tulips. I also didn’t want to harm any peony roots. Also because of the peonies, I wanted to avoid stepping on the bed if at all possible. I had already seen some red points, the tips of next year’s sprouts, poking through the soil in places.

So, I dug out one square foot at a time.

Yes, I used two rulers to measure a square foot.

Yes, I used two rulers to measure a square foot.

And I marked the four corners of the square with my trusty tent pegs, and piled the soil on my feedbag-cum-tarp. And I did unearth crocus and snowdrop clumps.
This is one of several crocus clumps I unearthed. I also found snowdrop clumps.

This is one of several crocus clumps I unearthed. I also found snowdrop clumps.

Then I counted out ten tulip bulbs from the mixed assortment and planted them in the hole I had dug.
I placed ten bulbs in each hole. I avoided straight lines better as I went along.

I placed ten bulbs in each hole. I avoided straight lines better as I went along.

Ten is actually a difficult number to arrange randomly. I would have been better off alternating between nine and eleven. However, with only ten bulbs per square foot, there was room to interplant the crocuses and snowdrops I had dug up. I divided the clumps before replanting.
Not all of the divided bulbs will bloom next year, but in a couple of years each separated bulb will be a new clump.

Not all of the divided bulbs will bloom next year, but in a couple of years each separated bulb will be a new clump.

I wondered as I replanted these small bulbs, if they would normally have such long sprouts already, or if that were a result of the mild autumn we are having. I did run into one peony root which I just planted around.

After I filled in one hole, I would move the farthest tent pegs to mark the corners of the new square and dig again. I did it fifteen times, spaced over two days. As I worked, I wondered if it would look more like fifteen disparate clumps of tulips, or one unbroken sweep. I decided not to worry about that. I thought about how I was being a tad particular, measuring each square foot and counting out bulbs. Oh, well, that’s just me. That’s how I garden. My gardening methods fit my personality and not a work schedule or business plan. It’s also why, I mused, I could never garden for a living. I sleep better at night knowing I saved hundreds of small bulbs worth pennies each, at the cost of several hours of expensive (if I was paying myself) labor. And it will still look beautiful next spring.

How about you? How does your personality show up in your gardening?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

JoeLand November 16, 2009, 3:49 pm

That is a lot of work, but such is the life of a gardener. I can’t wait to see your pics come springtime 😀

Lynn November 12, 2009, 7:11 pm

Great question! I tend to be so tedious and slow that my husband and I really can’t garden together (but he’s great when you need something muscled and fast ;). Bulbs scare me. My garden’s still in flux as I replant things I put in the maybe-not-so-great place at first. But then I’ve interplanted bulbs, and how do I know where they are? I plant little sticks in the ground to remind me, but it’s not so elegant.
.-= Lynn´s last blog ..first freeze, first snow, old news =-.

Ilona November 12, 2009, 2:00 pm

Interesting thoughts about garden personalities. I was always so particular, but then developed more of a shortcuts style to just handle the workload. The guilt trips however are harder to divest from my garden style!

I have fifty last bulbs to plant. Hope I get them in this week- you are an inspiration.

Country Gardener November 11, 2009, 10:20 pm

For the past couple of years, I’ve been meaning to dig up a few overgrown bunches of daffs and split them. And for several years, I haven’t done it. Too lazy, I guess, or maybe too overwhelmed. Maybe next year?

Kathy Purdy November 11, 2009, 10:26 pm

I have done that before, and it is quite a project. Brent of B&B’s Bulbs says improving the soil can bring them back to blooming again. Meaning, they have used up all the nutrients and the soil fertility needs to be improved.

Country Gardener November 11, 2009, 11:20 pm

They’re still blooming, but they look congested in spring. There must be hundreds of bulbs in each grouping now – they have really grown thick.
.-= Country Gardener´s last blog ..The urban myth that won’t go away: 80% of Canadians live in cities =-.

Dee/reddirtramblings November 11, 2009, 7:09 pm

Gosh, Kathy, I had to chuckle at your last question. Your method was so neat and precise. Mine so isn’t. I just use a dibber or a narrow spade and made small holes and drop them in. I have so many other bulbs in that bed, and I don’t want to hurt them. Mine would be the scattered mind method.~~D

Kathy Purdy November 11, 2009, 7:52 pm

Dee, I didn’t know where the other bulbs were. When I only have a small amount of bulbs, I do plant them your way.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 11, 2009, 6:55 pm

I could never dig up a square foot as you did. I prefer the more random method of laying out the bulbs on top and stuffing them in around the things already there. If there isn’t already something in the area, I lay the bulbs out on top, then dig out an area in a shape to encompass where the bulbs go, and then put them all in at once. I guess that does reflect my personality. I prefer to eyeball things and then just sort of wing.
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..The Joy of Leaf Mold =-.

Kathy Purdy November 11, 2009, 7:53 pm

In other beds I do it that way. But the linear nature of this bed, which hugs the driveway, seemed to call for a linear approach.