Just because the 209 is hitting its cold and rainy season, that doesn’t mean you can’t still be active outside.
One of the best ways to do that and get a return a little later on is planting spring bulbs. A bit of a misnomer, spring bulbs are what you plant in the winter, so they can flower in the spring. Depth for planting will depend on the size of the bulb itself when it goes in the ground; a good guide is to plant the bulb two to three times as deep as it is tall.
Now is a great time to stop by your local nursery or farm store and look over the wide variety of bulbs available. You can start them indoors and then plant them outside. They will spend the winter underground and then provide vibrant colors next spring.
Good drainage is key for the outdoor planting area, as too much water can cause the bulbs to rot. Commonly called hardy bulbs, examples of those that can be planted in the winter for springtime bloom include tulips, iris, daffodils, ranunculus and crocus, among others.
At Backroad Blooms Cut Flower Farm in Oakdale, the mother-daughter team of Lisa McPhee and Alyssa McPhee-Escobar has been busy getting their own bulbs ready for winter planting. Their shop, adjacent to Oakdale Cheese and Specialties at 10040 Highway 120, is closed for the season but they continue to work, planting the bulbs as they look forward to reopening in the spring.
“Now is the time to do it,” Lisa said of planting the bulbs, noting that daffodils are a favorite. “They’ll keep coming back every year and get bigger.”
“Tulips are another good one and most people plant them in early December,” Alyssa added.
California’s late planting season can run into January, depending on rainfall and temperatures, and Lisa and Alyssa agreed that getting bulbs ready for planting can be a fun family event.
Several bulbs can be started indoors in glass vases or even small jars, and by adding a few decorative rocks, it is an easy and fun project for kids.
“They literally start growing in the water,” Alyssa said.
“You can recycle a container you have at home, use an old Mason jar, an old spaghetti sauce jar,” noted Lisa. “Be resourceful.”
The bulbs can later be transplanted outside, and families – with a little patience – can then enjoy splashes of color around their yard come spring.
“I think this is so fun for a kid’s project, you just put it in a sunny window,” Lisa said of creating the decorative and functional temporary indoor home for the bulbs.
Alyssa likes amaryllis, favoring red and white in color, while tulips come in many colors. Unlike daffodils, tulips are best planted new every fall/winter for the spring bloom. Dahlias and ranunculus are other favorites, with plenty of colors to choose from in both those varieties as well.
Lisa said there are many online tutorials and YouTube videos that offer some instruction and tips on planting bulbs.
“It’s pretty fulfilling,” she added of working with flowers of all types at the business. “Flowers usually bring joy to people; they can be used on so many different occasions and to cheer people up.”
The local businesswomen said when their shop was open during the season, they had a ‘self-serve’ flower stand that saw a lot of traffic; bouquets were prepared and many people would drive up, make their selection and payment, and move on. The contactless flower purchases worked well for both buyer and sellers.
Backroad Blooms has its shop open three days a week from March to October.
“The self-service stand, people either did Venmo or put money in the box,” explained Lisa. “We found during COVID that people really did want flowers, they would use them to brighten up people’s day, just leave them on the doorstep.”
The cut flower farm is on four acres to the south of Oakdale Cheese and Specialties and the mother-daughter duo rent a building on the cheese shop site for their business.
“Every season is a fresh start,” said Lisa. “You can always improve.”
“We can add a little, take away a little each season,” agreed Alyssa. “I enjoy working with all the new varieties you get to plant.”
Planting is done six months in advance so even though the shop isn’t currently open for business, they are now preparing for what they will be selling in 2021.
For more information, visit www.backroadbloomsfarm.com; go to their Facebook site: Backroad Blooms Flower Farm or on Instagram: backroadbloomsfarm.