Yes, you can still plant bulbs

By Dorothy Dobbie

Even though snow has fallen once and may do so again soon, you can still plant bulbs — even after the last snow falls.

The ground is still warm and unless there is a sudden and prolonged very cold snap, the earth underground will remain several degrees warmer than the surface for some time to come — enough time for the bulb to set down some roots and be ready to bloom next spring. In fact, the more snow the better as it adds a layer of insulation that keeps that warmth in longer.

The worst thing to do is to keep bulbs in the closet over winter and hope to plant them next spring. By that time, they will be mush unless you store them in the crisper of your refrigerator, and even then, their survival is iffy.

I prefer to plant daffodils over tulips (although I plant both). Most daffodils will come back year after year and will multiply. Squirrels and rabbits don’t like daffodil bulbs, which contain oxalic acid that is poisonous to them. I have noticed that rabbits don’t even like to go into the gardens where daffs are planted.

Choose a tried and true daff bulb such as ‘King Alfred’, which has a nice, big, fat flower that is emphatically yellow. Some of the multi-coloured cultivars are more delicate. Plant some of those too, though, because they are so beautiful. There are doubles that look like peonies and colours can vary from white to pink and peach with contrasting trumpets and petals.

In this part of the country, it is advisable to plant daffodils a little deeper than may be called for on the package. I would suggest four to five times the depth of the bulb (three times is the usual rule of thumb).

The ground is very wet this year so if there are failures, this might be the cause. Bulbs generally prefer it to be a little drier. I am hoping for the best.

Throw a handful of bone meal into the planting hole for a healthier plant. Plant in groups of three to five or more. Dig a hole that in diameter is dinner plate sized or just a little larger to accommodate three to five bulbs. Plant bulbs pointy side up, at least three inches apart. Nestle them in firmly. Cover with the soil you removed. If there are leaves on the garden, add some of those on top for extra insulation. (I hope you haven’t removed the leaves from your beds. They will nourish the soil as they break down over winter). Don’t water.

Daffodils can be early, mid or later season bloomers. If you plant them under trees, choose early or mid season bloomers because daffodils like sun and will bloom before the tree is fully leafed out. Sunnier locations can take late season bloomers. If you stage the blooming times of the plants, you can have their cheery blossoms for two months or more.

To dress up your spring garden, plant some tulips in clumps near the daffodils. This will add colour interest. While many Darwin type tulips are marginal here and may not come back the following year, next spring will begin with a blaze of glory!

Treat tulips in much the same way as the daffodils.

Dorothy Dobbie is the founder of Pegasus Publications and the Local Gardener series of garden magazines. Tune into CJNU 93.7 (Channel 725 BellMTS TV and live streaming at every Sunday morning at 8:00.