Garden Tips: Gadgets help make planting bulbs easier

Marianne Ophardt, Special to the HeraldSeptember 24, 2013 

Last year, I pointed out that tulips don't "perennialize" well. Even tulips sold as perennials only bloom for a couple of years before declining.

That's why I wasn't too upset when one-third of the allegedly pink tulips we planted last year turned out to be dark purple. If I want a pink tulip display next spring, this time I should buy more bulbs from a reputable nursery for planting this fall.

This isn't good news for my husband, who did the work of planting. I did buy a hand bulb planter, but even in our sandy soil, it was a difficult job cutting the holes for the bulbs.

To make the job easier, I'm thinking about buying a different bulb planter. A.M. Leonard company (www.amleo.com) offers a bulb planter with a 36-inch handle. The planter allows gardeners to pull out a 6-inch-deep, 2.75-inch-round core of soil, creating a hole for a bulb. It also has a plunger that pushes the core of soil back into the hole on top of the bulb. No bending or kneeling is needed.

Similar to this is the Badger Semi-Automatic Planter (bulb-planter.com). It removes a plug of soil to a depth of 3 to 6 inches. Their other planters make holes the size of 3-inch and 5-inch pots. They are designed to dig holes for transplanting flowers or vegetables.

The DeWit Double-Handle Bulb Planter is another type of long-handled planter from Lee Valley (leevalley.com). It is a smaller version of a post-hole digger, with two 30-inch-long wooden handles, each with a blade at their base and attached together with a hinge. When the blades are plunged into the soil, the hinge can be used as a step for pushing down on the blades. When pulled up, the blades remove a core of soil.

Power tool enthusiasts should find power augers a handy tool for making the needed holes. Garden auger.com sells bulb and garden augers for use with everyday household drills. They offer 1.75-, 2- or 2.75-inch-diameter augers, each with a 24-inch long, 3/8-inch-diameter steel shaft. The company points out that their augers can be used for digging holes for transplants, deep root watering, aerating and turning compost piles.

There's also the Bulb Bopper by the Garden Supply Company (gardeners.com). It attaches to your power drill. This is a steel auger cylinder that can make holes 9 inches deep and 2 inches in diameter, but does not have a long shaft.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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