You can have much tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other flowerings bulbs next spring by following a few rules this fall. Here are some basic hints.
First, buy good bulbs. Bulbs are often sold under grade names such as forcing size, top size, large or medium. The forcing size is not the best for planning in the garden. The flowers are large and the first wind or heavy rain may bend them to the ground. They are fine for cut flowers or for forcing indoors. Top bedding size is best for both tulips and hyacinths for the garden.
Handle the bulbs gently. They are living things and bruise easily. A bruised bulb will produce disappointing flowers.
Plant the bulbs as soon as you can after you get them in the fall. The best place for them is in the ground unless you have a good place to store them.
Satisfactory storage temperatures are 55-65 with 63 considered best. At these temperatures the bulbs can be stored satisfactorily for several weeks.
In a heated house bulbs tend to lose some of their quality. It is lost through respiration, which occurs to an increasing degree as temperatures go higher.
Bulbs planted in soils with poor drainage may be ruined, may not even bloom the first year. After a heavy rain the soil remains slogy for a period of time. Oxygen, on which the bulbs are dependent, cannot move through soggy soil.
One way to solve the drainage problem is to plant the bulbs in raised beds. Water below the roots will do no harm. In Dutch bulbs fields, drainage ditches keep the water level at about 10 inches below the surface.
Plant large bulbs six inches deep (the top of the bulb should be six inches below the surface) and small sized bulbs three inches deep. This is deep enough to keep the bulbs from freezing. In areas where temperatures go below zero, the bulbs should be mulched after the first heavy frost with leaves, hay or something equivalent. Nondecoratives mulches can be removed in the spring when the shoots start to emerge from the ground.
They can be planted in sun or shade. Bulbs flowers in shady areas will last longer and grow taller. Bulbs in a bed facing south will bloom earlier than those facing north.
For the best effect, plant tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in clusters of 12 or more, all of the same variety. Smaller bulbs can be planted in groupings of 25 or more.
Space large bulbs about six inches apart; small bulbs two to three inches apart.
Bulbs planted in a window box will freeze and be ruined; the temperature inside it will be the same as it its outside. The bulbs can be planted in pots, stored during the winter when temperatures are below 45 degree F. and above 40, and moved to the window box in the spring.
In the spring the flowers should be cut when they start to fade so they will not got to seed, using food needed to form a new bulb for the following spring.