Soil serves as the backbone in any garden because plants obtain moisture and vital nutrients through the soil. Preparing a flower beds takes time, but it improves soil conditions and makes it easier for bulbs to grow.

Preparing Your Spring Flowering Bulbs

Prepare your soil for spring flowering bulbs in autumn (fall). Spring bulbs need exposure to cold winter temperatures to flower properly. They also need time to develop roots before the soil freezes.

Consider a planting site that fulfills the plant’s light and soil requirements. Some species of bulbs grow well in full- or partial-shade, but most require at least four hours of sunlight per day to bloom. Bulbs also require well-drained soil, otherwise they tend to rot.

Prepare the Soil

Conduct a soil test to determine the pH level of the soil and any other amendments you may need to add before planting. The pH level of soil ranges on a scale from 1 to 14. Optimum bulb growth occurs in soil with a neutral pH between 6 and 7. If the pH level of your soil is below 5.5, add crushed limestone to the soil to raise the pH. If the pH level of your soil is above 8, add rock sulfur to the soil to lower the pH.

Mark off the flower bed with stakes and clear the area of weeds before planting. Any perennial weeds allowed to remain in the soil will regrow and crowd out flowering plants in spring. It is tempting to sidestep manual weed removal with a rototiller, but a rototiller just slices up weeds and allows the roots to remain intact. In cases where the weeds have gone to seed, a rototiller will redistribute the seed and create even more weeds. Use a garden shovel or trowel to remove weeds instead. A garden shovel or trowel allows you to dig underneath the plants and lift out the stems, roots and runners in their entirety.

You would typically only use a rototiller for the cultivation of large flower beds. A shovel works just as well for small beds. Turn over the top 30 to 45 centimeters of soil to help aerate and loosen the top layers. Break up any large clods of dirt and remove any debris. Be sure to work the entire plot from front-to-back and side-to-side.

Add amendments to help improve the condition of the soil and correct any deficiencies. For example, if you have soil with a high percentage of slow-draining clay, spread peat moss or organic materials over the soil to improve drainage. If you wish to promote good bud development, sprinkle bonemeal over the soil. Fold in amendments by turning over the soil in much the same way you would fold flour into baking mix.

Position the Spring Flowering Bulbs

At this point, you can press the spring bulbs into the soil and cover them with soil. Pressing the bulbs directly into freshly turned soil allows for better drainage. If you prefer to keep things tidy, you can level the soil before planting the bulbs individually. Use the flat-side of a metal hoe to push the soil back and forth. Use a shovel to dig planting holes two to three times as deep as the bulbs are tall. Large bulbs such as daffodils require 20 centimeter-deep planting holes. Small bulbs such as crocus only need 10-centimeter deep holes. As always, you should plant bulbs with the pointed side facing upward, save for anemones which should be planted with the pointed end facing downward.

For the best effect, plant smaller varieties in sets of 20 and larger varieties in sets of 10. Large plants such as dahlias and amaryllis can stand alone.