Read on for a quick and efficient way for one person to plant a thousand bulbs in a few hours, without a tractor, without digging up large patches of ground and without digging a thousand individual bulb holes. With the help of a half-dozen chickens and a toddler trying to ride my back like a pony, I planted a thousand crocus in four hours.
Van Engelen‘s Wholesale Flower Bulbs has a late season sale each year in November, which is how I happened to come by 1,000 crocus for $50.00. I would have ordered 500, but they have a $50 minimum order, so 1,000 it was… my husband murmured something about never doing anything by halves… I knew that planting a thousand crocus would be a way of establishing something to look forward to through the long winter.
I Googled “planting thousands of bulbs” and found that Martha Stewart has a post on planting thousands of bulbs, and she uses a tractor to dig large patches of ground to plant dozens of bulbs at once. However, I wanted a minimum of ground disturbed (I wanted these crocus in sweeps across the lawn and in garden beds, not in massed bed plantings), and I also didn’t want to dig a thousand holes in the ground. I needed a happy medium between digging up large sweeps of ground and a thousand holes. And I needed to do it quickly, being late November/early December.
Necessity is the mother of invention and all that… I devised a plan and then, with the help of a half-dozen chickens and a toddler trying to ride my back like a pony, I planted a thousand crocus in four hours. Probably a little quicker without the company…
When the bulbs arrived, I headed outdoors with my gardening gloves, a shovel for me, and toddler gloves and a toddler-sized shovel for my helper. The chickens were out enjoying the day and ran up to see whether we had treats…
We began by planting couple hundred crocus in a bed of hosta right next to the house… with the chickens for company. That cardboard shipping box on the left side of the picture held 1,000 crocus bulbs: 10 packs of 100.
At the beginning, I dug and planted individual shovel clumps within an already established perennial bed of hosta. Crocus are planted at a depth of four inches, so an angled spade-depth clump at a time was just about right. This method works well when you are planting within an established perennial bed and know where the plants are, so that you can plant bulbs and crocus around established plants. it was pretty slow though, and I started thinking the best way to plant thousand bulbs was to GIVE SOME AWAY. But, about an hour in, I developed a better method, keep reading.
Crocus is one of the first things to bloom in Vermont. I wanted some near the door where we enter the house, to view close up: so the 200-ish were planted in the hosta bed. I looked at the remaining 800 and sighed a little. Onwards.
I planted another hundred in a second perennial bed of plum trees and flowers along the driveway. I did a scattered planting underneath the apple trees, a shovelful here and there.
We then moved to the back yard, near a balsam fir tree we see from the windows of the house. The idea was to have a large sweep of crocus blooms visible from the house. And it was down near the balsam fir that things really got cracking. I developed, in this mad dash of crocus planting, a method. I call it the Bean & Bantam Method for Planting Too Many Bulbs. Edit: A reader has informed me that this is a long-established method of planting crocus. I wish I had known sooner!
The Bean & Bantam Method for Planting Too Many Bulbs:
- Using a spade, cut a semi-circle or “c” shape in the sod approximately two feet across,
- Peel the sod back (use shovel as needed for leverage) towards the un-cut side,
- loosen soil at bottom to desired depth (depth was already correct at four inches for crocus, larger bulbs such as daffodils may require a few more inches),
- plant bulbs (pointed side up!), here I planted about 20 crocus per semi-circle
- loosen soil from bottom of sod onto planted bulbs,
- roll soil back onto planted bulbs so that sod is once more in place,
- tamp sod down–I prefer to tamp by stamping the edges and throwing in some dancing (I have music via headphones when I garden) but to each their own (my neighbors probably laugh for days).
And there you have it. I stopped thinking about giving bulbs away to others to plant, I was in this, and I was going to get ALL the bulbs planted, a semi-circle of sod at a time. It became fun, and I look forward to sweeps of crocus come spring, a thousand bulbs planted in a few hours, with music, and chickens, and a toddler trying his best to help.
Help is always good, although… not always helpful.
Tip: when planting bulbs in the lawn, plant several semi-circles in swaths so you can mow around them. Crocus can be mown earlier than larger-leaved and later bulbs like daffodils, but naturalized swaths of daffodils or other bulbs in semi-wild areas of lawn could be established by this method. If you wish to eliminate the grass I would recommend mulching once planted. We did not mulch: we will mow around these crocus until the leaves have yellowed.
My thousand crocus are waiting under the ground for spring, and will be among the earliest blooms for bees. A thousand blooms, a colorful spring, a task that took a little effort over a few hours and over time will multiply as crocus do, and last for years.
A thousand bright blooms, simple as a smile. Random thought: a thousand smiles over the year is 2.739726 per day. Skip Mondays and it’s 3.1948881. So get smiling, and plan some some bulb planting; both are good investments in happiness.
Postscript due to comment from There’s More Than One Way to Be Real:
Curiously, the symbol for 1,000 in ancient times, was also close to the symbol for pi:
“Meanwhile, 1000 was a circled or boxed X: Ⓧ, ⊗, ⊕, and by Augustinian times was partially identified with the Greek letter Φ phi. Over time, the symbol changed to Ψ and ↀ. The latter symbol further evolved into ∞, then ⋈, and eventually changed to M under the influence of the Latin word mille “thousand”.” from Wikipedia.
And also the symbol for the golden ratio, “Since the 20th century, the golden ratio has been represented by the Greek letter φ (phi, after Phidias, a sculptor who is said to have employed it)…” from Wikipedia.
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