If you haven’t gotten bulbs in the ground yet, don’t despair. As long as the soil temperature stays above 40 degrees F roots still have time to develop. This means you should still have success if you plant bulbs into early November. Check soil temperature readings for the previous week at our Weather Data Library: http://mesonet.k-state.edu/
Healthy bulbs should be large, firm and dormant. Do not choose bulbs that have sprouted. Bulbs need well-drained soil. Incorporate peat moss, well-rotted manure or compost into the soil to prepare for planting.
Test the soil for fertility and follow recommendations from the results. You may see high phosphorus levels if you test the soil in an area that is fertilized regularly. This can be problematic because phosphorus can hinder the uptake of other essential micronutrients. In these situations, use a fertilizer that is relatively high in nitrogen such as 29-5-4 or 27-3-3. Although these are lawn fertilizers, they are suitable for this purpose as long as they don’t have a weed preventer or killer incorporated. Apply at the rate of 2/3 pounds (3 cups) per 100 square feet.
Blood meal is an organic fertilizer that is low in phosphorus and can be applied at a rate of 2 pounds of 12-0-0 per 100 square feet (1 tsp per square foot). Cottonseed meal (6-0.4-1.5) can be applied at 3 pounds per 100 square feet (2 tsp/square foot) or soybean meal (7-2-1) can be applied at 3 pounds per 100 square feet (2 tsp/square foot).
If a soil test is not available use a balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 6-10-4 at a rate of 3 pounds (6 cups) per 100 square feet (2 tsp/square foot). Fertilizer supplements need to be thoroughly integrated with the soil prior to planting.
The depth bulbs should be planted is typically two to three times the size of the bulb. This varies depending on the species so check planting instructions for more accurate recommendations.
Cynthia Domenghini, Extension Agent