High Country landscape column: Plant bulbs now for early spring color
October 9, 2014
Now is the best time to plant tulips, daffodils and other bulbs that will be the first sign of spring next season. Planting now gives them plenty of time to develop roots before the ground freezes. It's an easy project as long as you know a few things to do — and not do — when planting.
LOCATION IS EVERYTHING
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus are nature's wake-up call after the long winter. Even though more snow may fall, their bright colors reassure us that spring is just around the corner. So when you look for a place to plant bulbs, pick a spot that will showcase the flowers to best advantage for you, the neighbors and passersby. Also, select a location that is well drained and gets plenty of sun.
WHAT SHOULD YOU PLANT?
Design, placement and timing should be your guiding factors.
• Design your bulb garden with colors that mix well with one another and with other spring blooming perennials and trees in your yard.
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• Place bulbs for impact by grouping them in pockets of at least seven bulbs rather than spacing them in a line. Groups of 10-12 are better still. You can plant bulbs one bulb and one hole at a time with a bulb-planting tool or small spade. But it will save you time to dig one hole or a wide trench to create an area for a 10-12 group of bulbs. Dig the hole, space the bulbs and fill it in with no special tools required.
• Group bulbs based on their bloom time. Daffodils and crocus are early bloomers and tulip can have three different bloom times depending on variety. Pay attention to bloom time when selecting bulbs and place bulbs in beds accordingly.
As with most plants, the most important step is to give them a good start and then let Mother Nature take over.
• Plant bulbs as soon as possible after you buy them.
• A rule of thumb is to plant a bulb three times deeper than its height — and space it about twice its width from other bulbs.
• Plant with the pointed end of the bulb up. If the bulb is too round to tell the top from the bottom, then place the bulb sideways in the soil. The bulb will automatically send shoots up and roots down.
• Take care not to compact the soil underneath the bulb so that the roots can spread out easily.
• Fertilizer is key. Select a variety high in phosphorous — a super phosphate — as it is better than bone meal.
• If you plant hyacinth bulbs, then be sure not to touch them with your hands as they can cause a rash.
• Include edibles among your mix of bulbs. Garlic and saffron crocus can both be planted in the fall.
TUCK IN BULBS AFTER PLANTING
Bulbs in wood mulch beds will do better than beds with no mulch or with rock mulch. After planting, spread an even layer of shredded mulch over the top.
• Voles are a common landscape pest and they are active foragers during the winter. If voles have been in your yard, then apply 2 inches or more of pea gravel over the bulb bed as a deterrent. The sharp edges of the gravel hurt the pads of their feet which will keep them from digging.
• To discourage elk, deer and rabbits, treat the bulbs before planting them with a hot pepper treatment. Garden centers have pre-mixed hot pepper sprays with wax for this purpose. You can also place a small wire cage of chicken wire over the top of the bed. Make sure the sides are bent and go into the ground.
• In the spring when rabbits are likely to chew on emerging, tender shoots, placing a goose decoy in the yard can be an effective deterrent. Other preventives include applying blood meal or a predator urine spray around the plants. It will need to be reapplied after snow or rain.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at (970) 468-0340.
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