Professor Peter's Totally Excellent Method for Planting Lots of Bulbs at Once.

My Professor at Cornell has a fine method for planting a lot of bulbs at once, and it's too good not to share.

First, in the spring, when everybody else has lots of bulbs blooming and you don't, choose a place where you want bulbs for next year. Cover that area with a thick layer of mulch. Four inches worth at least. Peter uses shredded bark mulch, but whatever kind of mulch you prefer will do. By the fall, any grass will be completely dead, if you've put the mulch down thickly enough. Browse the bulb catalogs in the meantime.

If you're dealing with changing a lawn area to bulbs, then wood chips or shredded bark are ideal mulches to use: those mulches consume nitrogen as they decompose, and grass really needs nitrogen so it's a double whammy on killing the grass.

Buy your bulbs in bulk! It's way cheaper than buying them one or six at a time. They come in mesh bags like you were buying fifty pounds of onions, and 100 daffodils can be found for $30-50 instead of a buck apiece.

OK. So in the fall your bulbs arrive and it's time to plant them. Rake away the mulch and dig the entire area to the proper depth for whatever it is you're planting. This is actually much easier than digging hundreds of individual holes. Rip open the bag, dump the bulbs in, and spread them around evenly. Don't worry about placing each bulb just so; they figure out which way is up by themselves. Refill the hole, and put the mulch back. You can plant 500 bulbs in an hour this way, easy. It would get dark and cold and your hand would fall off before you planted 500 bulbs one at a time.

In the spring, enjoy! And then, you can get another load of mulch, to get another area ready to plant. In the spring you'll see what color bulbs you have planted where, which will help you decide what you want to add where, and next fall you'll be able to tell which areas have already been planted and which ones are ready to be plant because the mulch changes color with time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This method of planting large quantities of bulbs is something I learned from Peter Trowbridge of Cornell; he must have tens of thousands of daffodils by now and it looks like that scene from Dr. Zhivago. It's beautiful.
© 2004 by Alan R. Turner.
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