Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Western Mountains and High Plains

October, 2009
Regional Report

Selecting Healthy Bulbs

When purchasing bulbs, select plump, firm, and blemish-free specimens. Many tulips have skins like onions that are partially or completely removed. This will not affect their quality as long as the bulb has solid integrity and is free of soft spots. If you cannot plant bulbs within a day or two of your purchase, store them in a cool (40F to 50F) and dry location in mesh bags or ventilated containers.

Improve Your Soil

Soil improvement is an important activity to get the garden ready for winter. Collect clean, disease-free garden debris, including leaves and grass clippings, and run it through a shredder so this organic material can be worked into the soil. I call this process "composting in place." Dig organic materials down to a depth of 8 inches or more.

Stop Pruning Roses

Avoid the urge to cut or shear back your rose bushes in autumn. Pruning now will leave cut ends that will dry out and die back even further during dry winter conditions. The best time to prune and shape roses is in late winter or early spring after it's clear where the live growth is located on the canes.

Store Leftover Seeds

This year's unused seeds can be saved if you store them properly. A simple way to save seeds is to place seed packets in airtight, plastic containers and put a drying agent such as silica gel in the bottom of the container. If silica gel is not available, nonfat powdered milk, wrapped in porous paper, will work effectively as a desiccant. Store seeds in tightly closed containers in a cool, frost-free place.

Forcing Bulbs in Pots

While planting bulbs this fall, plant a few tulips or daffodils in clay pots for winter blooms, too. Set the potted bulbs in a cold frame for cold storage. Water the soil as needed. Around mid-January or when green shoots appear, you can bring the pots indoors. In a few weeks you'll be rewarded with springtime blooms even though it's winter.


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