7 tips to protect young bulbs in the garden

Planting bulbs in the garden is a simple, low-maintenance way to ensure colorful blooms year after year. Both new and experienced gardeners love bulbs because of their simplicity and reputation for being fairly foolproof. With a seemingly unlimited selection of colors, flower shapes, heights, and bloom times, you can design a stunning bulb garden that requires little effort from you after planting.
When given the proper care and a little extra protection when they are young, these perennial plants will provide color and enjoyment for years. The following tips will help to establish young bulbs, encouraging them to thrive.
1. Know if they are hardy or tender
Before planting, determine if the bulbs you purchased are hardy or tender. Hardy bulbs (tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths) are planted in the fall and survive winter in the ground. Tender bulbs (dahlia, gladiolus, ranunculus) cannot withstand the cold temperatures, making it necessary to dig them up in the fall and overwinter them indoors.
2. Amend soil bed to make it light and friable
Bulbs need well-drained soil, loose soil for optimum growth. Well-drained soil keeps the root zone from being waterlogged and prevents the bulbs from rotting; loose soil encourages good root growth, enhancing the ability of plants to establish themselves. To improve the soil bed, add two to three inches of compost or sphagnum peat moss and work it into the upper eight to 10 inches of the soil before planting.
3. Plant at the correct depth
As with seeds and other garden plants, it's important to plant bulbs at the correct soil depth. A general rule of thumb when planting flower bulbs is to bury them "two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall," notes Breck's. This means most large bulbs are planted about six inches deep, with smaller bulbs only three to four inches below the surface.
4. Protect from rodents with mesh
Bulbs are full of water, nutrients and sugars, making them appetizing for rodents and other critters in the garden. During times of the year when food is scarce (winter, early spring) these pests are known to dig up bulbs for sustenance. When prepping your garden for the winter, cover the bulb bed with mesh or hardware cloth, weighing it down with rocks. As shoots begin to emerge in the spring, remove the cloth.
5. Do not overwater
Finding the correct balance between giving plants too much water and not providing enough can be challenging. In the case of bulbs, it's important to err on the side of caution to ensure they aren't overwatered. As previously mentioned, too much water in the root zone can encourage rotting. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings or let Mother Nature provide needed moisture through natural precipitation. Unless you live in a very dry climate, rainfall should be sufficient.
6. Keep foliage until after it yellows
Once bulbs have stopped flowering for the season, it is tempting to cut the foliage back, but this should be avoided. Flowering bulbs need their green leaves to produce food through photosynthesis. After flowering, bulbs make and store food to get the bulb through the remainder of the year, the coming winter and to set new buds for the spring. Cutting foliage prematurely may hinder their ability to bloom the following spring because of a lack of food in the bulb itself. Trim the foliage once they begin to yellow or turn brown.
7. Cover with mulch in cold areas
Spring flowering bulbs stay in the soil all year round, allowing them to emerge early in the spring. Through a biochemical process known as "chilling," they need cold weather to encourage the bulb to grow and flower in the spring. In areas with significantly cold winters, insulate bulbs from harsh conditions by spreading a layer of mulch over the soil bed once the ground temperatures have dropped.