Fall is now officially under way here along the Central Coast. As we celebrate the fall season, we realize some important tasks in the garden. One of the key activities for fall is the planting of fall bulbs. Planting bulbs is an age old tradition that will yield incredible results in just a few short months. This segment is dedicated to this fun task.

You see, spring flowering bulbs offer a reliable colorful display just when you need it most and they require very little effort. With the right preparation and selection, bulbs will flourish and even increase in production with time. The trick to growing large, healthy flowering bulbs is to prepare the soil well at planting. A rich, well draining soil with an annual amendment of organic fertilizer will feed the underground bulb and fuel the spring growth and flowers.

When purchasing your spring bulbs, it pays to be picky. Avoid the cheap product sold by mass merchandisers and box stores. “Nursery quality” stock will reveal “nursery quality” flowers in the spring. When shopping, avoid bulbs that are dry and withered, spongy or moldy. In general, the larger the bulb for its type, the more flowers. When planting, you will want to choose an appropriate location too. Most flowering bulbs prefer full sun.

The most ideal time to plant spring bulbs along the Central Coast is between October and December. When planting, plant with the pointed side up. The pointed end is the stem. Some of the bulbs are little deceiving. You may even be able to see some shriveled roots on the flatter side. If you really can’t tell, don’t worry about it. The stem will find it’s own way, sooner or later.

The general rule we follow is to plant bulbs to a depth of about 3 times their diameter. For Daffodils, that’s about six to eight inches. Smaller bulbs can be planted to a depth of two to four inches and so on.

One of the critical things when it comes to bulbs is adequate phosphorus and organic matter in the soil. Specially formulated bulb food is high in phosphorus and is highly recommended during planting. You will want to mix a bulb food or it at the bottom of the hole when depositing bulbs to encourage strong root growth.

If you have a gopher or mole problem, try applying some “Mole Max” in the area where you’re planting. Some folks even recommend sprinkling some red pepper flakes in the planting hole. An even more secure method is to plant your bulbs in wire baskets. The roots and stems grow through, but the rodents can’t get to the bulbs.

Once you’ve planted, water the bulbs right away to help them settle in and close any air pockets. Through the fall and winter, you only need to worry about watering your bulbs if you’re having a particularly dry season. Come spring, you should be well rewarded for all your efforts.

Here along the Central Coast, success with bulbs is easier thank you think. If you have further questions, seek out the expert advice from your favorite local nursery.