Wait until the ground has begun to freeze before mulching bulb beds. Mulching earlier will encourage bulb-munching rodents like mice and voles to nest there. A 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch will help prevent freeze-thaw cycles that can heave bulbs out of the ground; however, mulching is not absolutely necessary except in coldest areas.
Deciduous trees with deep taproots are better companions for naturalized plantings than trees with shallow, spreading roots.
Moles don't usually eat plant matter, focusing instead on insects. However, rodents such as mice and voles use their tunnels like a subway, and they do eat roots and bulbs. As you plant, mix products made from crushed oyster shells into the soil surrounding the bulb. This makes for tough digging for the rodents, and they might be induced to look elsewhere for a meal. Some gardeners resort to planting bulbs in little cages made of hardware cloth (wire mesh) to keep critters from munching on the bulbs.
To naturalize bulbs in your lawn, choose bulbs that blossom and fade before grass grows vigorously and requires mowing: crocus, winter aconite, snowdrops, and scilla.
If deer are hungry enough, they will eat almost any plant. However, some plants are less appealing than others, depending on what your local population has learned to eat so far. Daffodils are often cited as being deerproof, along with glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) and crocus. Unfortunately, tulips and lilies are deer favorites. You might ask some of your neighbors if they have had luck with any particular plants, then try those in small quantities as an experiment. Many gardeners use repellent sprays with varying success, but to be as effective as possible they must be applied and reapplied according to the instructions. Home remedies include using soap, blood meal, human hair, and so on, but in the end the only truly reliable solution is a deer-proof fence.
Annuals bloom better if the old flowers are removed. This prevents seed formation that normally makes annuals start to decline. The practice is particularly important when growing ageratum, calendula, cosmos, marigold, pansy, rudbeckia, scabiosa, verbena, and zinnia.
Making separate holes is time-consuming, so an easy way to plant a large area is to remove the top layer of soil to the appropriate depth, add low nitrogen fertilizer according to package directions, set the bulbs in place, and then cover the area with soil. For a natural look, some gardeners gently toss the bulbs in and plant them where they land.
Cultivate by hoeing to break up soil crusts and control weeds. Shallow rooted annuals are injured by deep, vigorous cultivation. Hoeing should be very shallow to cut weeds off just below the soil surface. As the annuals fill in, hand weeding may be the only practical alternative. Chemical weed preventers are available but they have a short life and must be reapplied. Most chemicals labeled for flowers do not give control of difficult perennial weeds.
Naturalizing simply refers to a way of planting bulbs so they appear as though Mother Nature had done the planting. That is, instead of planting in evenly spaced rows, the bulbs are planted in large drifts, much as you would find plants in nature. One way to achieve this effect is to scatter a handful of bulbs, then plant them where they land. To create a bed that reblooms every year, choose bulbs that are naturally long-lasting and multiply freely, such as daffodils, grape hyacinths, and crocuses.
Before placing young plants in the garden they should be hardened off. Plants taken directly from the house to the garden almost always scorch from exposure to direct sunlight and wind. Scorched plants turn white or brown. Plants not killed will certainly be set back. Harden off seedlings by placing them outdoors for several hours on mild days. Select a shady, sheltered area at first. After several days provide some sun in gradually increasing amounts. Plants may be left outside at if temperatures are mild. Begin this process at least two weeks before the plants are to be set out in the garden.