How I Plant Bulbs in Clay Soil

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The pollinator garden
Creating a pollinator garden in the back row of my open garden requires several stages of flower planting. Sometimes this is transplanting chives or daffodils from one section to another. Sometimes it's planting seedlings. And sometimes it's bulbs. This is the general process I follow for planting flowers in the poor-draining section of the garden (although, not the poorest - that's where the raised beds are). Some say this approach will root-bound the plants in the ground, but it's worked okay this past year for me. I hope that as I slowly enrich the soil via compost top-dressing, that the soil will improve and the plants' roots will be able to expand further.

These photos show planting some Purple Sensation Allium. I think I got two bags of 10 for ~50% off in the summer (always wait for a sale). I also purchased a few globemaster allium also on sale. They're much pricier as the flower is much larger.

  1. Dig ditch deeper than planting depth.
    1. Dig ditch deeper than planting depth.
  2. Add in some decomposing organic matter (untreated grass clippings)
    1. Add in some decomposing organic matter (untreated grass clippings)
  3. Top with some good quality potting soil (Happy Frog)
    3. Top with some good quality potting soil (Happy Frog)
  4. A light dusting of rock minerals (azomite)
    4. A light dusting of rock minerals (azomite)
  5. Space out the bulbs for planting, at appropriate distance and depth
    5. Space out the bulbs
  6. Top with good quality potting soil.
    6. Top with good quality potting soil.
  7. Layer on some more organic matter
    7. Layer on some more organic matter
  8. Fill ditch back in with native soil
    8. Fill back in with native soil
  9. Cover with cardboard (temporary/decomposing weedblock)
    9. Cover with cardboard (temporary/decomposing weedblock)

I followed the same process with my Checkered Lily Fritillaria (below, 2 or 3 bags of 15 on sale!), as well as with the bearded irises (although those rhizomes are basically planted at the surface). When I transplant other wildflowers into this section of the garden (lavender, butterfly bush, catmint, hyssop, etc.) I follow a similar process of digging a larger hole than required, enriching the soil in the hole, and then planting the seedling. This worked fine for the butterfly bush, 2/3 lavender, 3 catmint, and 3 meadow sage last year, so we're doing it with the fall-planted bulbs.
Checking Spacing Covering up with mulch

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