Plant bulbs and corms now for early spring blooms

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The days are getting noticeably shorter, the sun’s light is lower in the sky and the official start of fall is only days away. It might be difficult to think spring, but now is the time to plant daffodils, tulips, crocus and all of the beautiful spring blooming bulbs that signal spring’s arrival.

Generally, a gardener selects the site before purchasing bulbs. This site usually is conspicuously located to show the flowers off to their best advantage. If the bulbs will remain in this location for more than one year, they need adequate sunlight to regenerate strong bulbs. A southern exposure, especially when close to the foundation, induces early emergence that may result in freezing injury. Assure drainage so that the bulbs will not become waterlogged. Finally, a solid block of one color is more impressive from a distance than a mixture of colors and varieties.

The earlier bulbs and corms are purchased in the fall, the better the selection. Select the largest bulbs of a variety, as there is a direct correlation between bulb and flower size. Avoid those that show evidence of mold or mechanical damage.

September and October are the best months for planting bulbs as this will allow ample time for the bulbs to become well rooted before the ground freezes. Bulbs planted after October might not have enough time to develop a root system and may not flower uniformly in the spring. In addition, without an ample root system, the ground’s freezing and thawing might push an unrooted bulb out of the ground.

Bulbs are planted much deeper than seed; therefore, soil preparation methods differ.

  • All bulbs root below 4 inches. For fertilizer to be effective, it must be present in the vicinity of the roots.
  • Excavate the bed to the bulb’s planting depth. Apply the fertilizer and soil amendments at this level, and spade or rototill the soil to a depth of 3 or 4 inches. Take care to not compact the soil beneath the bulbs, which will result in a hard pan with poor drainage. This will promote water logging.
  • Aeration is the most important aspect of soil preparation. Before the soil is shoveled back in the bed, mix it with some type of organic matter. Space the bulbs as desired, refill the bed and water to settle the soil around the bulbs.
  • The flower bud and the food necessary to produce the flower are present inside a bulb when it is planted. Fertilizer is applied to make larger bulbs the following year.
  • Apply phosphorus fertilizer at planting time so it is available to the roots, because it does not translocate in the soil. Adequate phosphorus may be supplied with one-half pound of 0-46-0 fertilizer per 100 square feet.
  • To improve the texture of the soil, add sphagnum peat moss or well-decomposed compost using up to one-third of the volume of soil removed from the bed as described. Soil amended in this way offers less resistance to the short as it emerges and provides better aeration and drainage for root growth. Soils that are high in clay should be heavily amended.

Plant bulbs at a depth consistent with the level indicated on the planting chart. As a general rule, this depth is four times the height of the bulb between the soil surface and the tip of the bulb. Make sure to plant the bulbs with the growing tip up.

After the ground freezes, cover the bed with a 3-inch mulch to prevent alternate freezing and thawing that breaks roots and damages bulbs. This mulch may be removed in April before the shoots emerge or left in place if the shoots can penetrate it easily.

The above information was taken from Colorado State University Extension Fact Sheet No. 7.410, “Fall-Planted Bulbs and Corms,” written by S.E. Newman, greenhouse crops specialist and professor of floriculture, horticulture and landscape architecture. Other fact sheets can be found on the CSU Extension website at www.ext.colostate.edu.

Free wood chips

We are cleaning up the fairgrounds and all of the wood chips that helped keep things dry during the fair are available to anyone for pick-up. If you are interested, just bring your pickup and haul it away. No need to call the Extension office for permission.

CPR and first aid

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.

We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for individual CPR or first aid.  Group rates are available.

The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience. Call the Extension office at 264-5931 for information.