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Have you ever heard of lasagna gardening? It is a method of layering bulbs and planting materials to easily get the most yield from the smallest area of land. Now there is a “new” version of lasagna gardening just for bulbs.
Bulb layering (aka: bulb lasagne gardening) is an excellent way to be sure of having ample blooms throughout the growing season.
By planting the right selection of bulbs in layers, you can look forward to wave after wave of beautiful blossoms from early spring through early autumn. In this article, we will explain the concept of lasagna bulb gardening and share some solid tips to help you get started and succeed. Read on to learn more.
When Layering Bulbs Good Planning Is Essential
Bulb layering is a very easy way to get masses of flowers from a small space and/or make the most of large gardens. The first step in successful bulb layering involves good planning. You must carefully consider color, texture, height and bloom times as you make your bulb selections.
When you plan your spring bulbs layering or bulb lasagna gardening carefully, you can create a fabulous display of continuous blooms throughout the spring. The key is to choose a selection of bulbs that bloom at varying times so that you can set up a “schedule” of blooming over a couple of months’ time.
Select Your Bulbs
Be sure to choose bulbs that will grow to various heights. This will ensure that all of your flowers make their way to the surface successfully to provide you with a colorful and interesting display in the springtime.
One of the most popular combinations consists of:
- Bottom Layer: Tulips or tulip bulbs
- Mid-Layer: Daffodils
- Top Layer: Grape Hyacinth
Other good choices for lasagna bulb planting include:
- Dwarf Tulips
- Crocus (Saffron flowers)
- Scilla plants
Each of these choices has a different recommended planting depth. If you need to adjust the planting depth of some bulbs to accommodate layering, always do so by planting more deeply rather than less.
Deeper planting bulbs may result in slightly later blooming, but it will not hurt your bulbs. In fact, it will give them more protection from freezing temperatures in the wintertime.
Generally speaking, larger bulbs should go in the bottom layer of your planter with smaller bulbs in each successive layer; however, this is not always the case. Be sure to read the planting instructions on each package of bulbs you are considering.
- Growing Lavender Mountain Lily (Ixiolirion bulb)
- Question: Can You Force Spring Flowering Bulbs Outdoors To Flower Early? [YES]
Container Size Matters!
Another very important thing you should consider when planning a bulb lasagna container garden is the size of the container, itself. You must choose one that is both deep enough and wide enough to accommodate your bulbs.
Think about the number of layers you want. If you want two layers, you must have a container that is at least ten inches deep. If you want three layers, about fifteen inches will do. The general rule of thumb is to provide five inches of well-drained soil for each layer of bulbs.
Your pot should also be wide enough to accommodate all of your bulbs. It is not advisable to place your bulbs very close to the walls of your pot. You should have an inch or so of soil between the bulb and the sides of your container.
For more growing bulb tips along with a bulb planting depth chart, check out Fall Bulbs Spring Flowers
Here’s What You Need To Do
Remember that bulbs (and most plants) need very good drainage to survive and thrive. Begin by putting a layer of pea gravel or some other porous material on the bottom of your pot to assist with drainage.
Put a layer of good potting soil, potting mix or potting compost on top of this and add a sprinkling of bulb starter if you wish. Now you are ready to set up your first layer of bulbs.
As you place your bulbs, think about their position relative to your plans for the next layer. You may wish to stagger placement to make it easier for your shoots to make their way to the top.
You can place your bulbs fairly close together because the built-in nutrition in the flowering bulbs along with good potting soil/compost and bulb starter will provide ample nourishment.
Once you have one layer of bulbs in place, add about three inches of potting soil or compost, sprinkle with bulb starter and set up your next layer.
Continue until you have reached the top of your pot. At this point, you may wish to finish your planting with a layer of mulch for a more finished look and to help deter slugs and snails during the growing season.
Another alternative for finishing off is to plant flower seed or winter seedlings. Some good choices include:
- Hardy Cyclamen
- Small Grasses
- Dusty Miller
When springtime arrives, your bulbs will easily grow through your mulch or winter planting.
Remember that in addition to good drainage, bulbs love the sun. Choose your placement for your lasagna bulb container garden accordingly.
Bulb Layering In Flowerbeds
When planting in an outside flowerbed, bear in mind that bulbs make the best impression when planted en masse. When you choose your bulbs for lasagna planting in beds, you can ensure masses of blooms and beautiful color and fragrance for an extended period of time by choosing bulbs that feature overlapping bloom times. Plant them densely for a stunning display throughout the spring.
Steps To Create A Dazzling Lasagna Bulb Gardening
- Situate your bulb bed in an area that gets full sun during the wintertime. Be sure you have ample space and good drainage.
- Till and prepare the soil thoroughly. Amend as needed.
- Choose a variety of bulbs that have overlapping bloom times and require planting at differing depths.
- Choose very large bulbs (e.g. King Alfred’s Daffodils) for your first layer – especially if you want lots of layers. King Alfred’s need to be planted at least six or eight inches deep, so you’ll have plenty of room for more layers on top.
- Space your flowering bulbs half an inch apart, and top them off with a couple of inches of soil. Add bone meal or bulb starter for nourishment.
- Keep layering until you reach ground level (or the top of your raised bed) and top it all off with winter plantings or mulch.
- Water judiciously throughout the winter. One advantage of planting seeds or seedlings on top of your bulb lasagna garden is that you will naturally keep these plants watered the right amount to provide your spring-flowering bulbs with hydration through the winter months.
Some good bulbs for garden bed layering include:
- King Alfred Daffodils
- Dutch Hyacinths and/or Narcissus
- Crocus and/or Grape Hyacinths
What If I Have Limited Garden Space?
While we often think of a “host of golden Daffodils” sprawling over a hillside when we think of springtime bulbs, you can also enjoy 3 season bulb gardens in a small garden space. Bulb layering is an excellent technique for making the most of your limited garden space.
Even if you have a space as small as two-feet square, you can dig deep, layer your bulbs and enjoy a brilliant display of blooms come spring. In fact, you can have blossoms throughout the summer months and into the autumn if you plan it right.
The key to limited space bulb layering lies in careful bulb selection. Remember that even though your square footage on the surface of the ground may be limited, you can dig as deeply as you like. Consider setting up four layers (bottom to top) of bulbs with the following choices:
- Layer #1 – Very tall Lilies such as Orientals, Asiatics and/or Trumpets will bloom last.
- Layer #2 – Medium height Narcissus and/or Allium will bloom third.
- Layer #3 – Shorter Tulips will bloom second.
- Layer #4 – Very small Crocus, Grape Hyacinth, Iris reticulata and/or Scilla will bloom first.
While this combination is ideal for very small beds, it can also be used for large areas if you wish. You can add variety by making different selections from the four categories for different areas in your yard or garden.
How To Set Up A Small Space Outdoor Lasagna Bulb Garden
- In the autumn, find a bare spot with plenty of sun that gives you a couple of square feet of ground space.
- Dig a hole that is about 20 inches deep.
- Sift the native soil (or pick through it by hand) to remove rocks and roots.
- Mix the native soil with an equal part of good compost.
- Line the bottom of your hole with about three inches of coarse gardening sand for drainage.
- Add two or three inches of your soil mixture.
- Plant your bulbs as described above with the largest and latest blooming on the bottom layer and the smallest and soonest blooming on the top layer.
- Finish it off with three or four inches of compost and some mulch or some winter plants.
How Many Bulbs Should I Purchase For A Container Or Small Space Garden?
Remember that close planting equals more blooms in this type of gardening; however, if you plant bulbs such as Narcissus very closely you will need to dig them up and divide them within a year or so.
If you have a planter or growing space that is a couple of feet square, it can generally support:
- Half a dozen Lily bulbs
- Half a dozen Daffodils or four Alliums
- Up to eight tulips
- A couple of dozen smaller bulbs
Note that on the Daffodils and Alliums, you can mix and match judiciously. For example, you might plant four Daffodil bulbs and two Alliums.
Of course, you will also want to keep the size of your bulbs in mind. If you have especially large, healthy bulbs you will not want to force them into the pot. Be practical and remember to leave half an inch of space between your bulbs.
How To Make A Bulb Sandwich
Roger Cook, This Old House landscaping contractor likes to create what he calls a “Bulb Sandwich.” This allows maximum color from a limited space.
Basically, you dig one hole and layer the bulbs. Roger says, “Crocuses, tulips, and daffodils are a good trio.” For the details on planting, spacing and fertilizing, click the link below or watch the video.
What Colors Should I Choose?
If you have a small garden space, you may want to go with variations in the same shade just to avoid a cluttered, hectic feeling. On the other hand, since your flowers will be blooming at different times, you could choose very different colors for variety from one blooming period to another. What it really boils down to is that you should choose the colors you like. If you find yourself wanting something different, you can always make adjustments next year.
Practice Good Gardening Maintenance
For an organized look from start to finish, be sure to take care of your “cover crop” through the winter by deadheading and trimming as needed. Carry this habit through by deadheading spent flowers as your bulbs bloom and wither away. This will keep your bulb garden looking fresh and cheerful throughout the blooming season.