Autumn officially begins today, but now is a good time to plan ahead for your spring bulb garden. Enjoy our beautiful Indian Summer weather by getting out in your yard to plan some color for next year.
Scope out your garden
Choose the right location in your landscape, preferably a well-drained area that gets full sun at least six hours a day. Think about which flowers you'd like to see next spring in your garden. Consider the flowering time and period when choosing bulbs. Select a variety of bulbs that will provide a long-lasting show in spring.
Generally, crocus, snowdrops, species tulips (vs. hybrids), dwarf iris, and Siberian squill are very early bloomers. Next are grape hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, fritillaria, and common hyacinths. Late spring to early summer bloomers include alliums, bearded iris, and Dutch iris. Careful planning now can lead to an outstanding bloom display from early March through early June.
Measure and calculate
Plants need to be spaced so they are pleasing to the eye when they bloom but they also need to be spaced far enough apart to keep them from competing for water and nutrients. Large bulbs such as tulips and daffodils should be spaced 6 inches apart, so about 5 bulbs per square foot. Space smaller bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth about 4 inches apart. You will need 8 small bulbs per square foot of garden for those.
Even if you don't plan to plant for a few weeks, now is the time to look for bulbs. Look for plump, firm bulbs and avoid ones that feel soft and mushy or are extremely dry. Within the same variety, select the largest bulbs available as they tend to bloom better than smaller ones. To ensure higher quality, pick out bulbs individually.
If you are anxious to start planting, know that the best time to plant bulbs at most elevations is mid-September to late October. This is so bulbs can establish roots before the soil freezes. In general, plant bulbs at a depth of three to four times the length of the bulb. Mulch, such as wood chips, applied several inches deep after planting will help the ground from warming up too quickly in the spring. Mulches also conserve moisture and prevent excessive weed growth. After planting, water the bulbs to help with rooting. The mulch will help keep the soil moist, so be careful not to overwater.
Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. (2019, Sept. 20). Tip of the week (email newsletter). https://www.alcc.com/tip-of-the-week-email
Colorado State University Extension. (August 29, 2015) https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/bulbs-for-fall-planting/