One of the great pleasures of fall is planning spring gardens. In temperate climates, fall is bulb-planting time. Planning a spring bulb garden requires only simple skills and is followed by a luxurious labor-free winter wait. A variety of spring bulbs can enhance your garden from the end of frost to early summer.
Consult garden catalogs or nursery bulb packages to learn about the blooming schedules of various spring bulbs when planning your garden. Although you will usually plant all your bulbs at the same time in the fall (once nights are cool and before the first frost), crocuses, daffodils, tulips, spring iris and other bulbs all mature on their own schedules. Within varieties, there are usually early and late versions of similar flowers; tulips, for example, are available in early, mid-season and late types, as are daffodils/jonquils.
Draw a plan for your garden, or make notes about bulb heights and maturity schedules. Although some garden plans are based strictly on the basis of height (small bulbs in the front and taller ones toward the back; early ones up front and later ones toward the back), your plan may include clusters of bulbs in various parts of your yard blooming at different times--crocuses in the rock garden and tulips in a sun-spot by the front door, drawing the eye to different areas throughout the blooming season.
Include after-bloom planning in your bulb beds. Both daffodils and tulips need leaves to remain after blooming to strengthen bulbs for the next season. While leaves can be tied or curled down to complete natural die-off, you may wish to give some thought to how annuals or other bulbs will tide you over this unattractive but necessary period. In some areas, annual planting can follow bulb-bloom immediately. The leafing-in of nearby perennials can help to cover suddenly bare areas. In other beds, gardeners sometimes plant their latest, tallest bulb blooms where they will camouflage previous bulb-plantings.
Provide enrichment to new bulb plantings by adding rotted leaf mold or compost to soil; this nourishes bulbs and encourages the formation of good root systems. Protect bulbs from severe weather, including sudden late-fall warm days--with a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch on top of bulb beds. Include bulb beds in fall watering during dry spells.