The autumnal tease is here. A couple nights of frost, the changing colors and the snow up high on the mountain tops signal the changing of the guard. We all scramble to get the wood chopped and stacked, resist turning on the heat and, unfortunately, seek out matching socks (goodbye flip-flops) and the down jacket.
In the garden, it’s time to dead-head the perennials, add some organic matter to the vegetable beds and look for deals on plants and trees at the nursery (fall is a great time to plant). I also hope some of you are looking at planting spring bulbs and garlic.
October is a great month to plant bulbs as soils are pretty easy to work and have not frozen yet. If you plant too late, it may affect establishment and spring bloom. I would also recommend hand-picking the bulbs you want, either at a local nursery or at the Durango Botanical Society’s upcoming bulb sale. Select ones that are large, firm and free from disease or rot.
Plant bulbs with the roots down and the pointy tip up. Not sure what end is down? Then plant the bulb on its side – it will figure it out. Bulbs should be planted three to four times as deep as the length of the bulb. For example, if a bulb is 2 inches long, it should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep. I get it – digging in our soils isn’t always that fun with the clay and rocks so have some flexibility in where you want to plant. Or plant the bulbs en masse – this way you can dig a wider hole and reduce the recommended spacing a bit.
Lastly, water your bulbs well after planting and then add mulch. The need for bulb fertilizer seems to be debated, but if your soil lacks nutrients, adding fertilizer won’t hurt. Apply 2 to 4 inches of an organic mulch over the tops of the bulbs and then you’re done.
While I enjoy the daffodils, grape hyacinth and the ridiculously wide array of tulips out there, some great (and not so common) choices are:
Eremurus spp.: These provide “pop” in your garden. The tall spikes, also called foxtail lilies or desert candles, are very showy. Typically blooming in early summer, plants are about 4 feet tall. They don’t mind the drier sites that drain quickly. Zone 5.Chionodoxa spp.: This plant is frequently referred to as “Glory of the Snow.” They have five to 10 flowers per stem and do well as naturalizers (bulbs that can be left to their own business and expand freely in a pattern guided more by nature and less by the gardener). Plants grow up to 10 inches tall and are hardy to Zone 3. Try planting them in the lawn.Fritillaria spp.: This is another fun plant in the garden that can act as a showcase in the late spring. Bell-shaped flowers come in all colors and heights, they are hardy to Zone 4 and perfect for the rock garden. The plants, some of which can be 3 to 4 feet tall, can sometimes have a “skunky” smell to them. While the smell may turn you off a bit, know that it can also turn off the deer and rodents that tend to love chewing on our spring bulbs. Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter