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Tips for bulb planting success

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Photo by Craig Summers Black

(Read caption) Bagged bulbs are usually labeled by name only, so before going outdoors to plant, I write down plant heights on the bags and download images of the flowers, which I tape to the bags.

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My instrument of choice in bulb planting is not very high-tech. It’s long been your basic D-handle, round-point shovel. But feeling a little adventurous, I appraised all my soil lifters anew this week while planting a multitude of bulbs I received as presents.

The goal: How to best lift the least amount of heavy black dirt easily and efficiently.

The checklist and conclusions:

Tree spade – I really thought this held the most promise, since it is used to plant scores of seedlings in little slits and very quickly. But this heavyweight was overkill.

• Lightweight, long-handled “women’s” shovel – This is my perennial planter of choice, but the metal neck almost snapped with high-speed repetition.

• Long-handled trowel – Hopeless. My soil is just too  heavy for the little thing.

So I went back to Square 1, the D-handle, and my five-step process:

1.  Stomp the blade, angled into the soil.

2. Push the handle forward slightly to just barely lift the soil.

3. Throw a bulb in the slit behind the blade.

4. Remove the blade from the soil and step on the incision to close it.

5. Wait for the evening rain.

Planting this way, I can easily put a hundred separate bulbs in the ground in less than an hour. (I rarely put two or three in a hole.) Drifts, “streams,” groupings (anything but straight lines) – all easy going.

But even before going outside, I do a little prep work in the house.

Because bags of bulbs rarely have any more label information than the name of the bulb, I add info I need to each bag: Specifically, how tall the plant will be (so I can figure front, back, or middle of the border), and what the flower looks like (to ease color transitions, avoid clashes, and complement house paint or shades of walls or stone).

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