Planting Flower Bulbs

Every Fall, we get the chance to look towards the Spring! Many of our schools request an assortment of flower bulbs through our Annual Garden Survey. In October, we pack up boxes of flower bulbs and send them out to school gardens across the five boroughs of New York City. We also help garden groups and school science classes plants them around their school gardens if they need a little assistance. Here are some tips for planting flower bulbs in the ground.

  • Plant bulbs in October or November before the first frost arrives and the ground soil freezes.
  • A educational moment: Before planting, we usually start by discussing the difference between a flower bulb and a flower seed. To fire up some student inquiry skills, we ask questions:
    • What season are we in?
    • When do we usually plant seeds in the garden?
    • In what was is this flower bulb different from a seed? Why do you think this is different?
    • Does this remind you of any food items? Students often notice that tulip and daffodil bulbs look a lot like onion and garlic bulbs. We discuss how both bulbs are storing energy for the baby plant within to start growing in early Spring. We use the energy in an onion bulb for food, but if we planted that onion, the energy would get used to grow an onion flower!
  • We compare the sizes of each bulb, discuss how deep to bury each bulb (about twice the depth as the size of the bulb) and how to choose a good spot to plant:
    • The bulb should have sunshine when it begins to grow in the Spring.
    • The bulb should have space to grow a few inches away from other flower bulbs.
    • The bulb should be in a spot where it won’t get trampled when it begins to grow.
  • We put on gloves and pass out trowels and/or bulb planters and demonstrate how to plant a bulb – pointy side up (bulbs will actually turn themselves around in the ground so don’t stress too much on this)! Planting tips:
    • Keep your gloves on! Some bulbs, especially daffodils, can make your skin feel itchy. Always wash you hands after planting.
    • Don’t fling the dirt when you’re digging. Make a pile next to where you’re digging.
  • Get planting!
    • There are two approaches: Either let kids practice autonomous decision-making, accepting a little planting imperfection, and let them choose where in the garden to plant. It’s a good opportunity to observe the results and ask questions in the Spring. Or, take the lead and work together to lay out your bulbs in a nice pattern or rows in a sunny spot in the garden. Some teachers choose to lay out the bulbs first, and then have the students dig and plant them where they’re laid out.
    • Cover the bulbs up with soil and mulch if have it. The winter’s snow melt will water the bulbs.
    • Save the photos on the packages of each bulb so that students can look for what they planted when they emerge in early Spring!

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