October 1, 2013
How To Plant Thousands Of Daffodil Bulbs In A Single Day
Last November, we shot a story about planting thousands of daffodil bulbs in a single day for the October issue of my magazine, Martha Stewart Living. If you've ever planted spring-flowering bulbs, you know how labor intensive this task is. Last autumn I found a really great way to plant. I searched for an existing hollow, or a depressed area, in the garden that was lower than the surrounding plantings and found the perfect spot. The complete story, including sources, is in the October issue, which is also filled with delicious recipes and many fun ideas for Halloween. You can subscribe by clicking here.
1 I decided that this area, which had been an unused bocce court, would be perfect for planting masses of colorful, spring-blooming daffodils.
2 This area was the perfect depth - eight inches below the level of the adjacent shade garden.
3 Preparing the bed required amending the poor, slightly sandy soil with bone meal, superphosphate, and rich compost.
4 The ground was also fork-dug to a depth of five inches.
5 Using my bulb catalog as a guide, I created a planting map in advance.
6 After the area was raked smooth, I applied lines of demarcation using granular lime following my map.
7 Each section of the map accommodated 50 to 100 bulbs of 19 different varieties.
8 I was inspired by the great daffodil displays I visited in such famous gardens as the New York Botanical Garden and the Winterthur Garden, just northwest of Wilmington, Delaware.
9 I initially started planting large numbers of bulbs each autumn about 10 years ago.
10 It was the beginning of my search for a method that would allow me to plant lots of bulbs neatly and quickly.
11 At first, we dug individual holes for each bulb, struggling with rocks and roots as we pierced the earth with a bulb digger or spade.
12 Planting that way took more than a week, as the first order of bulbs was a bit overambitious - 5,000!
13 This is John Dolan, an excellent photographer, who shot this story for the magazine.
14 John took some great photos while perched on a tall ladder.
15 The following year, with a similar number of bulbs to plant, we scraped away eight inches of soil, mass-planted the bulbs, and covered them with the reserved earth.
16 That method saved a bit of time, but the planting was still very labor-intensive.
17 When a large section of this new daffodil bed was laid out, a few loads of well-mixed compost were brought to the garden from the composting area of the farm.
18 The compost was used to cover the area, leveling it with the surrounding gardens.
19 I call this nutrient-rich mix black gold.
20 I continued to place bulbs while my farm crew worked on filling the bed with compost.
21 We managed to get 3,000 bulbs into the ground in a single day! An amazing feat!
22 This past spring, the resulting daffodil display proved that the method is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a fast solution to bulb planting.
23 And it would certainly work for tulips, muscari, hyacinths, and other mass bulb plantings - adjust planting depth accordingly. Of course, it would work for smaller areas - when you're planting in the dozens rather than the thousands!