How to Plant Seeds & Bulbs


Seeds and bulbs are more than just an economical way to produce a garden full of flowers; they are a magic show for children and a reaffirmation for adult gardeners of the miracle of mother nature. Plant a seed or bulb and an entire plant, replete with blooms, emerges when soil and air temperature signal it to grow. Plants have reproduced for years but if you want better percentages in your garden, plant them under conditions that are as close to perfect as possible.

Before Planting

Step 1

Plan your garden layout. Put each plant or cultivar, in the right place for sun exposure.

Step 2

Wait until the soil warms to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius) before planting seeds. Although some plants like lettuce and spinach, will germinate in soil as cool as 35 degrees, most use the warmer soil temperature as a cue that it is safe to grow.

Step 3

Prepare garden soil by working in one to two inches of compost combined with an equal measure of well-rotted manure or humus. Cultivate to a depth of 12 inches. Not only do these amendments make the soil drain better or more friable, it also puts nitrogen into the soil that will be gradually available for plant and leaf growth.

Planting Bulbs

Step 1

Dig a hole deep enough so the top of the bulb will be at least two but less than three times the height of the bulb below the surface. The hole should be about two times the width of the bulb wide. Dig holes at least twice the width of the bulbs apart; more for large bulbs like lilies and bulbs that reproduce quickly like narcissus and tulips.

Step 2

Scatter a handful of bone meal or super phosphate around the hole. Check with your local university extension to see which bulb food is better for soil in your area.

Step 3

Set the bulb in the hole, pointed side up. Corms grow from the depressed side. Bulbs usually have a root cap or roots growing from the bottom of the bulb; this side faces downward.

Step 4

Hold onto the top of the bulb and back fill the hole with amended soil. Cover the bulb but do not tamp soil down.

Planting Seeds

Step 1

Mark the edges of the border and rows where seeds go with stakes and string to help you remember where your seeds are.

Step 2

Make furrows along the row markers from a half an inch for smaller seeds to one inch deep for larger seeds.

Step 3

Sprinkle seeds along the row. Rows should be spaced at least six inches apart--more for plants that will be larger at maturity. Store bought seed packets generally have directions on spacing.

Step 4

Tamp soil over seeds with the back of a garden fork and water lightly. Keep seeds moist, not soggy, by watering daily.

Tips and Warnings

  • Keep soil moist, not wet; never drown seeds with too much water. They need air to germinate, too.

Things You'll Need

  • Well-rotted compost
  • Manure or humus
  • Garden Spade
  • Garden rake
  • Hand trowel
  • Bone meal or super phosphate for bulbs
  • Water
  • Stakes and string


  • Colorado State Extension: Fall Planted Bulbs and Corms
  • Park Seed Company: Sowing Seeds Outdoors
  • University of Illinois Extension: Planting Bulbs
  • "Time-Life Gardener's Guide, Annuals"; George Constable, editor; 1988.

Who Can Help

  • Go Organic: Planting Your Garden Seeds
  • University of Vermont: Bulbs for Spring Bloom
Keywords: planting seeds, planting bulbs, garden plants

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.