Planting bulbs is one of my favorite chores on the farm and in our flower gardens. But ask any gardener “What is the best tool for planting fall and spring bulbs?” and you will get a different answer from everyone you ask. Here are some quick questions to ask before we review each of the tool types:
What Type of Bulbs Are You Planting?
With a large variation of sizes and planting depths, the bulb planting tool you select will likely depend on what flower bulbs you are planting. For instance, a large DN2 18cm Daffodil bulb requires a much larger hole than a small Allium flower bulb. (Read our post on Flower Bulb Sizes). Also, not all tools can work in harder ground, or at deeper bulb planting depths.
What Type of Soil Do You Have?
Your soil type will also help you decide on your garden bulb weapon of choice. If you have prepared a nice raised bed garden with rich, loose soil, you may use a different tool than if you are “roughing” it an digging in native soil to get the naturalized look.
How Is Your Back? 😉
Alright, alright. Let’s get real. For the older ones in the crowd (I am one of them), your back may not be ready for hours of hunching, and you may want to use a tool that allows you to stand up for the digging part.
The Bulb Planter
Ok, so now that we have some of the bulb type, soil and the state of your back :), let’s move on to the different types and their pros and cons:
The Garden Hand Trowel
Back to basics. If you are planting a few flower bulbs, or just digging a trench in which to place your flower bulbs, the old standby trowel will work just fine. Also know as the small shovel, it is a bit old school, but when used correctly will do the job.
Pros of the Trowel for Bulb Planting
Everyone has one
Easy to use
Great for small volume planting
Good for most soil types
Cons of the Trowel for Planting Bulbs
Hard on the ol’ back
Not optimal for large quantities of bulbs
Can be difficult to use for deep planting
The Bulb Dibbler
The simplest tool a gardener can own has been used for millennia to plant seeds and plants of all types: The garden dibble/dibbler. Essentially a piece of wood to poke holes in the ground, the bulb planting dibbler is made for quick use. Seed dibbles are long and pointy, and bulb dibbles are fat and stout. The bulb dibbler is simple to use and effective.
Pros of the Dibbler for Bulb Planting
So simple, even a caveman can do it
Rapid bulb hole making
Usable for deep and shallow, big and small
Conveniently marked for easy depth gauging
Made of all-natural hardwood
Cons of The Dibbler for Bulbs
Most effective in softer soils
Metal Scoop Planter for Bulbs
These are your typical twist and scoop planter for bulbs. Usually made of metal with a plastic or wood handle, the scoop is angled to try and keep the dirt in and create your hole. I personally don’t like these bulb planters, but many people use them, and its a preference.
Pros of the Metal Bulb Planting Scoop
Do well in varied soils
Good for shallow bulb planting
Make uniform holes
Cons for the Metal Bulb Planter
Contant twisting to remove dirt
Dirt gets stuck in clay type soil
Hard to get deep bulb holes made
Made of metal and plastic 🙁
The Bulb Auger
The bulb auger planting tool is essentially a drill bit for the garden. Attach the metal or plastic end to a power drill, or if using a manual auger, twist the handle to dig your bulb hole.
Pros of the Bulb Auger Planting Tool
Stand up version is easy on the back
Works well in loose soil
Allows for any depth
Cons of the Bulb Auger
Hard to gauge depth
A little messy
Impossible to dig holes close to each other (Soil fills in bulb holes)
So, that’s a quick view of the bulb planting tool world. You can use them all for any bulb type, and there are enough for any preference in the garden. Go plant some bulbs! You can read our tips for planting bulbs here:
There are so many different outlets for purchasing flower bulbs for Fall and Spring. But how do you know you are buying a quality bulb that will produce amazing flowers in Spring or Summer? Bulbs come in all shapes and sizes, and depending on the variety and flower type, they can differ by quite a bit. There is one rule when it come to buying bulbs: the large the bulb, the bigger and more beautiful the flower. Just think of that bulk as energy to produce beauty and size in the end result. Here are some quick rules of thumb for buying the best, high quality flower bulbs for specific flower varieties.
How Do you Measure Flower Bulbs?
Flower bulbs are measured by circumference, or distance around the thickest part of the bulb. Daffodil bulbs are also rated by a DN (double-nosed) rating, which is their ability to produce multiple flowers. DN1 being largest, DN3 being smallest.
Flower Bulb Size
There is nothing quite like a mass of blooming tulips to take your breath away in spring. In order to have the most spectacular bloom, tulip bulb size is extremely important. Smaller bulb sizes are usually cheap, or on sale at home improvement stores, and typically measure 10cm or less in circumference. High quality bulbs are typically 12 cm, with firm skin and a solid feel and weight. Make no mistake, this may seem like a small size difference, but the results will differ dramatically. Large flower bulbs of the Darwin variety will produce blooms the size of tennis balls!
The allium family is a broad family of bulbs with many unique varieties that range from small to large. The flower bulbs are equally as diverse, and as a rule of thumb, small bulbs produce small flowers, and large bulbs produce larger flowers. Large varieties will have sizes of 18-20cm bulbs, while smaller, miniature flower bulbs will be around 5cm.
I remember the first time I opened a box of Daffodil bulbs from our Dutch bulb importer. I was shocked at how huge they were compared to others we had purchased and planted on the farm in the past. Daffodil bulbs, if they are high quality, should be 12-16cm, and the larger the better.
Ah, the sweet, sweet scent of Hyacinth in the Spring. Hyacinth bulbs for planting out in the garden whether in planting beds, in borders or in pots should have a circumference of least 14 cm. Hyacinth bulbs that have been grown specifically for planting indoors, also known as forced hyacinths, can be up to 16 cm around. After the flowers have bloomed indoors, you can replant them outside in fall in the garden, where they will bloom again the following Spring.
You can see that size is very important, and the bigger the bulb the better! Now that you have them, how do you plant them for success? See our latest post and guide on How to Plant Fall Flower Bulbs.
As the leaves begin to fall, the weather turn colder and our garden goes brown, there are still some great gardening gift ideas for the gardener in your life. First off, its maintenance time, so we need to clean up our garden. Prune and cut back, dig up and get ready to plant our fall bulbs. Here is a short list of great gardening and housewarming gifts for men and women alike:
Quality Pruners – When Pruning back our bushes and perennials, nothing is valued more than a great set of garden pruners. The best garden pruners are made of stainless steel with aluminum handles, and are sharp and light. This is on the top of our “Gardening Gifts” list
Hori Hori – the Hori Hori Garden Tool is a must as we move into fall. We Use it to dig, divide, cut roots and weed during the fall season. It is handy, and makes gardening more enjoyable.
Bulb Planter – As we start to plant our tulips, hyacinth and daffodils, a bulb planter/dibbler is our best friend. This hardwood planting tool looks great, and making planting bulbs a breeze.
Fall Flower Bulbs – One of the best things about fall is the planting of fall flower bulbs. As we plant, the anticipation of what we will see in spring is invigorating.
Garden Sharpener Set – Sharpening garden tools without the right sharpener is painful at best, and a sharpener set is one of the top gardening gift ideas. As the seasons end, it is a required task to sharpen and oil your tools to have them ready in Spring.
Copper Garden Markers – If you are like me, you forget where you planted certain varieties. Never forget again by using copper garden markers to identify what lies beneath!
This is just a quick set of fall gardening gift ideas, and gardening gift items we have seen over and over. They will provide great utility and joy in the Fall gardening months. Shop our store for more great gardening gift ideas.
Planting bulbs in Fall and Spring is one of my favorite things to do. A little investment and a ton of joy at bloom time. But over the years I’ve figured out it’s not as simple as just grabbing your sturdy bulb planter, making a hole, plopping in the bulb and done. My painful lessons learned, are now turned into 6 key tips for success when planting flower bulbs.
Location is Everything – as with any plant, insuring the right amount of sunlight is key to growing beautiful flowers. For most bulbs, they will need at least 6 hours of sunlight to mature and produce flowers. Soil is key, and bulbs are heavy feeders and need fertile, well drained soil. Without drainage, the bulbs will rot over time and you will have nothing for your efforts. For early bloomers like Daffodils, you can plant the bulbs under trees as the blooms will happen before the leaves appear.
Bed Preparation is Key – weed and loosen the planting area, and add a rich dose of compost to the soil as a preparation for planting your bulbs. Bulb depth is key, as bulbs that are plated too shallow or too deep will not grow. A good rule of thumb is 3 times the bulb size as a depth gauge. And make sure the pointy side is up!!!! A bulb planter with depth marks can really help.
When to Buy Bulbs – it seems there is always a buying frenzy at the end of summer/beginning of fall to buy bulbs before they sell out. Buying bulbs early is fine, but proper storage until planting time is key. Bulbs need to be stored in a cool, well ventilated space to prevent rot, and keep them dormant until planting time. (see our lovely Dutch Flower Bulb selection).
When to Plant Bulbs – timing on planting your bulbs is key, and all bulbs need time to “chill” before they go into growth mode. Timing varies across growing zones, but as a rule of thumb, once ground temperatures are 40-50 degrees F , you can go ahead and plant. For areas that dont have cool soil temps, you will need to place your bulbs in the fridge for 6 or so weeks to get results.
Bulbs and Fertilizing – If you prepared the soil correctly as outline earlier, your bulbs will have all the nutrients they need to grow through fall and winter. You won’t have to fertilize until the first sign of green poking through your soil.
Right Bulbs at the Right Time – remember, you can really classify all bulbs into Fall and Spring bulbs, and planting at the right time for the specific bulb is critical to success.
What makes the best hand pruners, and how to buy ones that are right for you.
We have been through a lot of different pruner shears in our time gardening and on the farm here at Celtic. And I can tell you, there is nothing worse than using a bad set of hand pruners all day. What are some of the key problems with pruners? How can you avoid them and. find the best pruners for you? Well, here is a quick list of things we have experienced over the years:
Cheap Metal Pruner Blade – any pruner that is black metal is typically made of cheap steel and will rust, pit and get dents in the pruner cutting blade. We like stainless, shiny blades for all our garden pruners, and premium pruners will have them.
No leverage – Sometimes we have to cut thick stalks and branches with our pruning tools. Many pruners have straight handles with no offset, and this means no leverage in the blade, and pain in the hands.
Not Wide Enough – to cut those big dahlia stalks, or the sunflower broom handle shoots, we need an opening that can handle a decent diameter.
Heavy – low quality hand pruners weigh a ton (cheap steel).
Poor Spring – low quality pruners are not snappy when you open and close them due to a cheap metal spring.
Ok, enough of the bad stuff, the question is, how can I tell a high quality set of pruning shears? Here you go:
Ergonomic pruner handle angles to easy pressure on the wrist
Wide opening blade mouth for easy big cutting.
Stainless secateur spring.
Lightweight aluminum shear handles.
Sharp, tough cutting edge.
Smooth, quiet cutting action.
This is just a quick article on how to spot the best pruning shears when you are shopping. They will put a happy smile on any gardener’s face at first use. If you want to see our recommended shear for pruning, you can find it here in our store: