Want to be first on your block for dazzling spring color? Prefer to focus on your vegetable beds next spring? Planting spring blooming bulbs is the surefire way to impress all your neighbors! Bulbs are also a great time management plan ensuring your spring garden is blooming while you plant your other garden beds. Planting bulbs allows you to extend your bloom season and they require little care once planted. This makes bulbs a great solution for the laborious or lackadaisical gardener.
When shopping for bulbs to plant in the Vail Valley, you will want hardy bulbs. Hardy bulbs require cold winters to “chill” and perform their best. Hardy bulbs are planted in the fall and are spring or summer-blooming. Hardy bulb varieties include tulip, crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, anemone and iris. Purchase bulbs as you would pick an onion at the grocery store. Look for large, firm bulbs, preferably without blemishes.
The best time to plant spring-blooming bulbs is in mid- to late-fall before the ground freezes. Too soon may result in winter damage to bulbs that sprout prematurely. There are a few things to consider when planting. Choose a site with good drainage that receives full sun, away from building foundations (radiant heat could force bulbs too early). Till or cultivate the site and add organic matter to improve soil structure. Adding organic matter is especially necessary for clay soils that wouldn’t allow bulbs to break through otherwise
If you find you do not have time to plant your bulbs right away, you can store bulbs in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until you do. Be careful not to store them with ripening fruit as this will cause your bulbs to “ripen” as well. Bulbs can be safely stored this way for several weeks. Using small tarps or leaf piles over your planting area will keep the soil warm and workable until you are able to plant.
Plant at right depth
When you are ready to plant the bulbs, examine your varieties. Using a trowel, bulb planting tool or an auger, dig a hole 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. Planting too deep will produce late (or no) blooms. Planting too shallow can subject tender new growth to late-season cold weather. Add a natural, organic, granular fertilizer like Happy Frog or Dutch Bulb Food to the hole to promote strong root growth. Granular animal repellents may be added at this time. Alternatively, soak bulbs in liquid repellent for 3-5 minutes, let dry, then plant. Gently press bulbs into the bottom of the hole, pointy side up, cover with soil and tamp down lightly. Don’t know which end of your bulb is up? Plant it sideways, the stem will find its own way to the sun. Adopt the same method when planting a bulb bed. Trench the area to the depth of your deepest bulb, plant up in layers, adding soil as necessary for each bulb.
Add Cayenne Pepper
People often plant bulbs with blood meal as an animal deterrent. Use caution when planting with blood meal as it may attract dogs, cats and other predators that can dig up your bulbs. Adding cayenne pepper seems to help this. If you choose to use blood meal, do not use more than 1 teaspoon of blood meal per hole, as it is high in nitrogen and can suppress blooming. Sprinkle in the hole before and after placing bulb. There are alternatives to blood meal. We recommend laying a 1/2-inch screen just above or around the bulb. This will protect the bulb, allow the plant to grow through the screen and prevent animals from digging past it. Other alternatives you may find describe planting bulbs in a 2-inch ‘bubble’ of gravel. Deer love tulips and lilies and will go to great lengths to eat them. Deer resistant bulbs include allium, narcissus, hyacinths, scillas and crocuses.
So, if you want to trounce the competition this spring in the race to have the prettiest yard, consider planting spring blooming bulbs to get a head start in the spring.
For more information, connect with Colorado Alpines and Wildflower Farm on several social media channels. When connected, you’ll receive current news, seasonal tips, and exclusive discounts. Colorado Alpines, providing full landscape services, and Wildflower Farm, the valley’s only year-round retail garden center, are both located in Edwards on U.S. Highway 6. Reach them at 970-926-5504 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.