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Master Gardeners: Planning next summer’s garden


Vicky Barney
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Planning a place for bulbs in the garden.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — About this time every summer, I’m discouraged that my yard isn’t more perfect, that there are weeds and dry spots and garden chores waiting. Apparently, I’m in good company.  

Margaret Roach, a highly respected gardener and writer, recently wrote an article for The New York Times about shopping for flower bulbs — “Shopping for flower bulbs: It’s one of the more joyful summertime garden chores, certainly better than dragging hoses and sprinklers around or keeping ahead of the most incorrigible weeds.” What a wonderful idea.

Flower shopping used to mean taking a trip to the nursery, buying whatever struck my fancy and hoping to find a good home for it. But after a number of failures, I’m becoming more disciplined in my approach, by better understanding my yard, reading about new ideas, studying neighboring yards and visiting the Yampa River Botanic Park. 

My new approach includes the following steps:

  1. Take stock of the yard, making a list of remaining chores: weeding, thinning, pruning, etc. This involves walking slowly, pulling a few weeds, deadheading a bit and, hopefully, discovering that the list isn’t too daunting.
  2. Look for appropriate spots for new plants, keeping in mind “Right Plant Right Place.” This is the step where I incorporate new knowledge and past experiences.
  3. Make a list of plants that might work, remembering that plants may grow more or less or differently than expected. Like the previous step, remembering past experiences is important. For example, sea holly I planted last summer grew 2 feet taller than expected.
  4. Shop for high quality bulbs from reputable companies that address the issue of neonicotinoid usage. Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of insecticides whose residue is found in all parts of treated plants and impact pollinators.

I plan to be more creative and plant more than tulips and daffodils. In the article mentioned above, the author suggests planting pretty lettuces and mustards around bulbs, filling spots usually covered in mulch. I will also look into bulbs that are not as tasty to deer and moose, like allium, fritillaria and grape hyacinth. See CSU Extension Fact Sheet No. 7.410 for planting information.

Thankfully, there are still several weeks left to enjoy this year’s gardens and now is a good time to take a break. Along with planning for next year, my break includes exploring nature’s gardens in the high country. The wildflowers are spectacular.

Master Gardener: For more

Colorado State University Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions. Email csumgprogram@co.routt.co.us or call the CSU Extension office at 970-879-0825 and ask to leave a message for the Master Gardeners. Thursday morning office hours and scheduled site visits are currently suspended.

Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.


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