Spring flowering bulbs are planted in autumn when being outdoors, in some parts of the Northern hemisphere, is not always pleasant. Gardeners that are prone to quickly getting chilled, and who feel dampness in their bones more readily than others, should consider wearing a layer of ski underwear [top and bottom] underneath their gardening clothes. It does make a difference - a very big difference. The old fashioned variety that has a bit of wool blended into its fibers is the best- if it is still available. The underwear traps natural body heat to keep the gardener warm.
The most important tool for planting bulbs is a flat kneeling pad made of foam. Do not purchase one that is a cheap promotional quality; a rigid, thick product is best. Its primary purpose is to cushion the knee caps during the planting process but it has another important benefit as well. When two such pads are placed side by side, the gardener can slide over from one work station to the next and from one knee pad to the other, without lifting the body. This helps to avoid the repetitive movement of standing up and kneeling down, an aerobic exercise that can tire out gardeners who are not in good shape. Progressing sideways from one pad to another is similar to playing leap-frog: For example, - after the gardener slides from left to right, i.e. from pad No 1 to pad No 2, pad No 1 is then lifted and placed to the right of pad No 2, thereby becoming pad No. 3.
Planting bulbs efficiently requires a set of trowels: - one with an oversized blade and the other, a narrower version of the first. In order to plant tulip or daffodil bulbs, a hole 8 to 10 inches deep must be dug. The larger trowel can only create a hole 6 inches deep on the first try. A second plunge with such a large trowel is unnecessary work. It is easier to switch over to a smaller trowel, whose narrow point can efficiently deepen the first hole by 2 or 4 inches.
Before planting, prepare the trowels so that they can also serve as measuring guides to determine the depth of the holes. Items needed for this task are a ruler, a red permanent marker and pre cut strips of metallic duct tap, cut ¼ inch wide. On the concave side of the blade of the larger trowel and beginning at its tapered point, measure off spots for 2, 3, 4, and 6 inch depths and identify them with the red marker. Each variety of spring flowering bulb needs to be planted at its specifically recommended depth and these markings make it easier to gauge those measurements while digging.
Then, continuing along the handle, mark off the 8 and 10 inch spots. Highlight these last two measurements by wrapping the duct tape strips around the handle at these two spots to create metallic bands. Repeat the handle markings on the narrow trowel as well; its blade portion may already be factory engraved with measurements, depending on the brand purchased.
The 8 inch markings help to gauge the depth of the planting hole for tulips, daffodils and narcissus. The 10 inch spot is used to convert Darwin tulips into perennial bulbs. By planting at 10 instead of the recommended 8 inch depth, the Darwin tulip will work harder to generate growth and that work encourages it to behave like a perennial. However, Species tulips, such as Greigeii, Kaufmanniana and Fosteriana, will perform as perennials when planted at their recommended depths.
Lastly, avoid purchasing tools that are sold as bulb planters, no matter how attractive or clever they appear. They are not user-friendly nor are they efficient. Many such tools are made with a tubular blade that creates a circular hole. However, compacted earth will get stuck inside the tube and removing it is time consuming and arduous work. In addition, avoid drilling holes with an auger bit. Some gardeners report disappointing results with this method.