Winter is coming but by late February and March there are just times you need a little pop of color to brighten your day. And frankly I get hungry for color at the end of winter. A solution for this is planting bulbs.
Fall is such a wonderfully colorful time and a fabulous time to be outdoors. It's also time for gardeners to tuck in their gardens with compost, manure and mulch to hold the moisture and prepare for a robust spring garden. Winter is coming but by late February and March there are just times you need a little pop of color to brighten your day. And frankly I get hungry for color at the end of winter. A solution for this is planting bulbs.
Now is the perfect time for planting bulbs for early spring gardens. Essentially you want to get the bulbs in the ground about a month before the ground freezes. Just when that occurs is anyone's guess. I generally wait until after the first frost to plant my bulbs but anytime between now and November will work.
Prepare your bulb garden by cultivating it and adding plenty of peat to help with drainage. Each type of bulb should be planted at a specific depth so read the package as you prepare to plant. Dig your hole to the required depth then add a small handful of bone meal, approximately a tablespoon at the bottom. Cover the bone meal with a handful of dirt and then place your bulb in the hole with the pointed side up and the roots down.
Tulips are beautiful but they have some shortcomings. Many tulips do not readily multiply or return the following year but it is worth the effort when they come up in the spring. You may want to look for the Darwin varieties, as they tend to be a hardier bulb. Tulip bulbs can be a tasty treat for moles so you may want to add granulated castor oil in the hole around the bulbs to prevent them from being eaten. If you have deer that visit your yard you may need to consider fencing or other solutions.
Daffodils, narcissus, snowflakes and snowdrops are members of the amaryllis family and are truly deer and rodent proof as they contain a poisonous substance called lycorine that no mammal will eat. The other wonderful aspect of these bulbs is that if you don't cut their flowers they tend to return each year and most will multiply and reward you again and again.
Paperwhites are fun for the holidays and can be placed in a forcing vase or in a vase containing gravel with water just below the surface of the gravel. It helps to place your paperwhites in a tall tube vase to prevent the plants from toppling over when they bloom. I always place some hyacinth bulbs in my refrigerator and bring them out at the end of January so I can enjoy their color and aroma before spring has arrived.
The process of growing bulbs inside is called forcing and after bulbs have been forced they are no longer usable in your garden.
An alternative to planting a bulb garden is to plant bulbs in a large pot. Start by putting about 6 inches of soil in the base of the pot. Then add a layer of bone meal. Place a layer of soil over the bone meal. Take bulbs that need to be planted about 6 inches below ground level like daffodils or tulips and place them around the inner edge of the pot. Cover these bulbs with about an inch of soil, then place hyacinth bulbs on top coming in about an inch from where the tulip bulbs are located and placing them between where the tulips are located. Place another layer of soil on top of the hyacinths. Plant a variety of crocuses, Muscari or snowdrops on top of the soil and then cover with a last layer of soil.
Place the pot outside and water well. With careful tending the pot of bulbs should reward you in the spring with a bounty of lovely colors.
Debrah Dubay is a member of Los Jardineros Garden Club in Taos.
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