Plant Bulbs Now for Color Explosion this Spring

Spring-blooming bulbs are popular because of the beauty they add to the landscape and their ease of growing. Now is a good time to plant them, and many local retailers offer a wide variety. Consider these popular selections.

* Tulips – Tulips are adapted to Utah soils and are available in many colors and flower classes. Many tulip hybrids only bloom well for three or four seasons, then need to be replaced. However, there are some classes that thrive longer. Darwin hybrid tulips, generally the longest blooming, are valued for their large, brightly colored blossoms in red, pink, orange, yellow and white and grow to 30 inches tall. Fosteriana or Emperor tulips are known for their larger, elongated flowers in early spring. Flowers reach 10 to 20 inches and come in shades of yellow, white and red. Some varieties have variegated foliage. Species tulips are the original wild species and generally are the longest-lived tulips. The flowers are not quite as spectacular and the plants are often smaller, but they are great to use in naturalized areas and rock gardens.

* Daffodils (Narcissus) – Daffodils are an excellent bulb choice because they are deer resistant. They are long lived and should be divided every 3 to 4 years. Yellow is the most common color, but cultivars are available in creamy white and yellow orange, and newer white varieties have pink fringes. Some cultivars grow from 6 to 12 inches.

* Hyacinths – Hyacinths usually grow 6 to 10 inches tall. They are popular for their spring flower spikes with colors ranging from white to pink, red and purple. They work well as a border plant intermixed with other spring flowers. Hyacinths usually start to lose vigor after 3 to 4 years and should be replanted.

* Crocuses – Crocuses offer an early spring surprise because they are among the first flowers to bloom. They often actually push up through the snow. Flowers only reach 3 to 4 inches tall and come in shades of pink, white, yellow and lavender-purple. They are best planted in large groupings instead of individually. They also work well in rock gardens and other naturalized areas.

* Alliums – Alliums are slightly less common than other bulbs but perform well in Northern Utah. They are closely related to edible onions. Blossoms are unique and are sometimes referred to as the spiky ball flower or fireworks flower. Colors include white, red, pink and purple. Flower height ranges from 6 inches to almost 3 feet. The largest cultivars are showy and are often used individually as a springtime flowerbed focal point.

* Irises – Irises are available in some form for most of the growing season. During the spring and summer, they can be purchased as potted plants. However, it is often less expensive to purchase the bulbs in the fall. The common bearded iris is seen in many local yards, but other types are available, including dwarf and variegated forms.

* Fritillaries – Also called checkered lily, they are less common but add beauty to the landscape. Known for having an upside down flower, the color is usually white or light purple. Plant size ranges from 6 to 24 inches. The tallest cultivars are used as focal points just as larger alliums are. Smaller types will naturalize in drier areas.

There are many other spring-blooming bulbs that can be purchased from garden centers, farm stores and box stores. Bulbs are also available through online retailers.

Plant bulbs two to three times as deep as the bulbs are tall. Plant most large bulbs such as tulips or daffodils about 8 inches deep and smaller bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep. Planting depth is measured from the bottom of the bulb. This rule for planting depth does not apply to summer bulbs, which have varied planting requirements, so consult the information supplied with the bulbs.

Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths should be planted with the nose of the bulb upward and the root plate downward. To plant, dig and loosen the entire bed to the proper depth. Press the bulbs into the soil, then cover with soil. Because the soil in a spaded bed is better drained and prepared, the planting will last longer. This method of planting is preferred over planting bulbs one by one with a bulb planter. In many soils, bulb planters do not work well, if at all.

Planting information is from Rob Cornwall, University of Illinois fact sheet, “Bulbs and More.”

Time for Yard and Garden End-of-Season Tasks

Autumn is officially here, and there is much to look forward to – pumpkins on the porch, apple cider, cooler temperatures and walks through crunchy leaves. But before you get too comfortable, don’t forget the yard and garden end-of-season tasks. Consider these October gardening tips from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac to help. Included are links to fact sheets and videos for further information.

· Consider adding a smaller structure such as a low tunnel or a larger high tunnel to extend your growing season.

· Learn how and when to harvest winter squash. Store winter squash in a cool, 50-55 F, dry location.

· Plant garlic cloves from mid-October through early November.

· Click here for a list of fall cleanup chores and good landscape practices.

· Remove vegetable plants from the garden once the harvest is complete. This will help reduce overwintering sites for insect pests.

· Protect tomatoes from early frost by covering the plants with a blanket or tarp.

· Overwinter carrotsbeets and parsnips in the ground by placing mulch over them. This prevents the ground from freezing.

· Rototill leaves, compost and/or manure into the vegetable garden to enhance the soil microbe activity.

· Limit rose pruning to heading back excessively long canes. This will help prevent damage from heavy snow loads.

· Cut back ornamental grasses in snow-prone areas once the foliage has died down; otherwise, leave them until spring and enjoy the vertical accent during winter.

· Plant spring-blooming bulbs through early November.

· Consider planting trees and shrubs in the fall to enhance root establishment.

· Dig tender perennials such as gladiolas, dahlias, begonias and canna lilies after the foliage has died down and store them in a cool, 45-50 F, dry location.

· Protect trunks of young trees from winter cracking by wrapping them with a white reflective tree wrap.

· Dig and remove annual flowers.

· Plant cold-hardy annuals such as pansies, primrose, kale and ornamental cabbage.

· Prune out (to the ground) raspberry canes that have fruited.

· Fall is the best time to control tough perennial weeds such as field bindweed (morning glory). Click here for a list of weed control options.

· The last lawn mowing of the season should be 1-1 ½ inches high to minimize disease problems.

· Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after the last mowing (late October to early November) for early green-up next spring.

· Click here for the average first and last frost dates in locations around Utah.

Pests and Problems:

· Send diseased vegetable plants and leaves to the local landfill.

· Use burlap or other soft materials to wrap evergreens to prevent snow breakage.

· Treat for Coryneum blight in stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums) when 50 percent of the leaves have dropped.

· Clean up and discard fallen fruit to reduce overwintering sites for disease and insect pests.

Do Wasps Get a Bad Rap?

All wasps can sting, right? Well, not exactly. While we tend to group them all into the stinging insect category, paper wasps, yellowjackets and aerial yellowjackets (hornets) do most of the stinging. These wasps are in a single-insect family (Vespidae) with ovipositors or egg-laying organs modified into stingers. Of all the species of wasps, over 99% of them do not have an actual stinger. Most of them are beneficial parasites of other plant-damaging insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars, and they help keep those populations in check. So, think twice before acting against wasps. They are more beneficial than we give them credit for! Consider this information.

  • Wasps can become territorial if they feel their nests are threatened or when the availability of food is low, but most of them are not aggressive. Simply avoiding the nest area can prevent most stings. When wasps are out and about, they are usually searching for food and do not care if humans are near. If you stand still around wasps, they will usually fly away on their own, even if they come within inches of you. They generally want nothing to do with humans. Never swing or strike at them since quick movements can provoke defensive stings.
  • There are no true hornets in Utah. The insects we refer to as hornets are actually aerial yellowjackets that make above-ground nests; other yellowjackets nest in the ground. Paper wasps make nests on structures and trees above ground. They generally build nests on the eaves of homes or other protected areas around the yard, including playground equipment, fences, sheds, etc.
  • Paper wasps, yellow jackets and aerial yellowjackets are social wasps that nest with other individuals. They can sting with their ovipositors, and their group causes the majority of stings to humans in North America. Stings from social wasps are not usually medically significant, other than temporary pain and swelling around the sting area. However, those who are allergic to them can experience severe reactions requiring immediate medical attention. 
  • Since yellowjackets (ground-nesting and aerial-nesting) are often attracted to sugary foods, soda cans and garbage containers, be sure to frequently remove waste and maintain tight lids on all trash receptacles.
  • Management is only necessary when social wasps nest in heavy-traffic areas or if household members could be allergic to stings. Generally speaking, nests in the landscape or low-traffic areas should be considered beneficial because of their predatory tendencies. 
  • If management becomes necessary, many chemicals are available that can reduce wasp populations at the nesting site. Selection depends on the location and size of the nest. Be sure to follow label directions. 
  • Traps can reduce wasp populations around garbage cans. However, the pheromones are generally made for ground-nesting yellowjackets and will not attract aerial yellowjackets or paper wasps unless specifically labeled. 

For further information on social wasps, visit   

Answer by: Zach Schumm, Utah State University Extension arthropod diagnostician,

August Yard and Garden Checklist

The heat is on, and yards and gardens are trying to keep up with high temperatures and drought conditions. Consider these tips from the USU Extension Gardeners Almanac to help your garden succeed this month. Also included are links for further information.

  • Beginning in early August, plant selected cool season vegetables for a fall harvest.
  • Deadhead (cut off) spent blossoms of perennial and annual flowers. 
  • Deep water established trees and shrubs about once per month during the heat of summer.
  • With limited water due to the drought, turfgrass should be the last priority for watering. Priorities include (in order of importance) trees, bushes, perennials, annuals and turfgrass. Click here for more information.  Click here to learn about irrigation needs in your area.

Pests and Problems:

  • Check under leaves of pumpkins, melons and squash plants for squash bugs.
  • Watch for mosaic virus in vine crops, and remove infected plants to reduce the spread.
  • Watch for holes from tobacco budworm feeding in the leaves of petunias, necotiana, geraniums and other annual flowers.
  • Protect black locust trees (not honey locust) with a registered chemical to prevent locust borer damage.
  • Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Control for walnut husk fly in walnuts, peaches and apricots between August 1 and 15.
  • Learn how to identify a hobo spider.
  • Control European paper wasp with traps this time of year.
  • Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects.

To see a video on gardening tips for August, click here. To learn more gardening tips and tricks, visit For drought information, visit

With Proper Care, Drought Won’t Permanently Damage Yards

Utah is currently in one of the worst droughts since recording began in the late 1800s. Many reservoirs are at an all-time low, and some are drying up completely. Because of this, a statewide alarm was sounded by the governor asking the public to conserve water.

Many areas in central and northern Utah are being asked to irrigate lawns no more than twice a week, and in southern Utah, no more than three times a week. An irrigation cycle is considered 20 minutes for pop-up sprinklers and 40 minutes for impact rotor sprinklers.

Even with this reduced irrigation schedule, lawns can stay fairly green but will develop brown patches; however, the brown patches do not mean the lawn is dying. Lawns go dormant with excessive heat and reduced water, which means the roots and crowns are alive and healthy even though the blades turn brown and stop growing. Lawns can survive in a dormant state with as little as ½ to 1 inch of irrigation monthly.

After the last severe drought ended, Utah State University Extension horticulturists saw a wide variety of trees and shrubs with disease and pest infestations – particularly pine and spruce trees. To prevent this from happening again, it’s important to care for the most important assets in your yard. Consider these tips.

* Trees and shrubs should be given top priority – not only because they are the most expensive plants to buy, but they also add the most value to a landscape. In 2013, California researchers found that trees and shrubs that shade or partially shade lawns in dry climates can help decrease overall water needs. The canopies decrease both the amount of direct sun that reaches the lawn and the temperature, which can help lower the amount of water lost to evaporation. Healthy trees in a landscape could potentially raise a home’s value anywhere from 3 to 20% and reduce heating and cooling needs by 20 to 50%.

* Some homeowners have decided to let their lawns go dormant to further reduce their water consumption. In these situations, it is imperative that trees receive irrigation at least twice monthly with water that penetrates 18 inches into the soil. To do this, hose-end sprinklers under a tree’s canopy work well. Irrigate for a couple of hours, take a break for another few hours, then water again in order to get water deep enough.

* Recognize that due to the drought, no landscapes will look perfect this year. Brown spots in the lawn are part of living in a desert in the summer, and that’s okay. Turf is tough and can handle being a little thirsty. Just remember to give your trees occasional extra water to keep them healthy through this year’s heat and for years to come.

By: Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist,

Five Tips to Help Trees Thrive During Drought

Trees provide cooling shade that helps reduce temperatures and energy bills, and they are an essential part of our landscapes. As the drought persists and we continue to cut back on lawn watering, it is critical that we remember to take care of our trees. While a brown lawn will come back easily if water is available next year, an under-watered tree may die and it will take decades for another tree to replace it.  Consider this information to keep trees thriving. 

1.  Determine moisture levels. Trees and shrubs need deeper, more extensive root systems than turfgrass, and they should be watered slowly and for longer periods of time than other plants. To save water and have healthy trees, withhold water until just before water stress occurs. This will depend on conditions, but will be approximately every few weeks. Leaf wilting and scorching are symptoms of water stress, indicating you may have waited too long between watering. Stress levels are different for different tree types, so take the time to learn about your specific tree’s water needs.

2.  To get deep, wide root systems, soil should be kept moist to a depth of 18-20 inches for trees and shrubs. To determine soil moisture under your trees, use a long screwdriver or metal rod as a moisture probe. The probe will easily penetrate moist soil but will stop when it hits dry soil. As for the width of the root area to be watered, wider is better, and a tree’s roots will extend out a distance close to its height as long as water is available, so consider watering an area two-thirds of this distance.

3. Make sure your irrigation methods and equipment match the tree’s needs. Test your sprinklers by catching water in cans scattered around the irrigated area for a set amount of time. Small sprinkler heads that send a mist out can put out more water than you would expect, but if you don’t irrigate long enough, you may not provide enough water to get past the grass roots. 

4. Water by hand with a hose. This can be an efficient way to water if it is applied slowly enough to be absorbed by the soil. Consider placing a soaker hose or sprinkler turned on low over the tree roots during the coolest part of the day for 2-hour intervals every few weeks. 

5. The amount of water needed for a tree depends on the weather and the tree’s drought tolerance. About one-half to 1 inch of water may be required weekly for shrubs and smaller trees with up to a 4-inch trunk diameter. Large trees may require hundreds of gallons of water per week. It is difficult to water trees adequately with a drip irrigation system because trees may need greater amounts of water than the low flow systems can put out. For newly planted trees and shrubs, water frequently until the root system is established. Mulch and control weeds and grasses around the trunk to reduce evaporation and competition for water. 

Trees are long-lived friends that have countless benefits. In our dry climate, they depend on us to supply water to keep them alive and thriving. It is especially important that we take care of them now so they will be important parts of our communities for many years to come. 

By: Darren McAvoy, and Mike Kuhns, Utah State University Forestry Extension

How Does Your Garden Grow? Tips for July

It can be a challenge to keep gardens growing well as summer heats up, so Utah State University Extension provides a Gardener’s Almanac to help. The almanac  provides a checklist of tasks with tips, links and further information.

July Checklist

·         Start enjoying the tomato harvest.

·         Side dress (fertilize) potatoes in the garden with nitrogen in early July.

·         Harvest summer squash and zucchini when they are still small and tender.

·         Deep water established trees and shrubs about once per month during the heat of summer.

·         Deadhead (cut off) spent blossoms of perennial and annual flowers.

·         Divide crowded iris or daylilies once they have finished blooming.

·         Remove water sprouts (vertical shoots in the canopy) of fruit trees to discourage regrowth and reduce shading.

·         Renovate perennial strawberry beds by tearing out old crowns (mother plants) and applying fertilizer to stimulate new runners.

Pests and Problems

·         If tomatoes are not producing, it could be due to hot weather (95°F and above), which causes flower abortion.

·         Blossom end rot  (black sunken areas on the end of tomatoes) is common and is caused by uneven watering.

·         Check under leaves of pumpkins, melons and squash plants for squash bugs.

·         Treat corn for corn earworm.

·         Spider mites prefer dry, hot weather and affect many plants. Treat for spider mites by using “softer” solutions such as spraying them with a hard stream of water or by using an insecticidal soap. Spider mites can be easily identified. Shake leaves over a white piece of paper, and if the small specs move, you have mites.

·         Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.

·         Historically, control of the greater peach tree borer in peaches, nectarines and apricots occurs the first of July. However, for specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.

·         Click here for instructions on how to submit a sample to the Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab.

·         Watch for symptoms of turfgrass diseases.

·         Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects.

·         For drought information, click here. For information from the Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping, click here.

To see a video of the July Gardener’s Almanac tips, click here. To learn more gardening tips and tricks, click here.

By: JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension horticulturist,

June Gardening Checklist

June is here, the sun is shining, and gardening is in full swing! Consider these tips from the Utah State University Extension Gardener’s Almanac to help make your yard and garden the best they can be. Also included are links for tips and additional information.

  • Consider drip irrigation in the garden to conserve water.
  • During a drought, it’s especially important to remember that turfgrass only needs 1-1 ½ inches of irrigation per week. Click here for irrigation needs in your area.
  • Discontinue harvesting asparagus spears in early June to allow the fronds to form for the rest of the growing season.
  • Prune tomatoes to open the canopy of the plant.
  • Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs (those that bloom before June) after they have bloomed to encourage new flower buds for next season.
  • Deadhead (cut off) spent blossoms of perennial and annual flowers.
  • Thin the fruit of apples, peaches and apricots to approximately one fruit every 5-6 inches.
  • Apply a second application of pre-emergent herbicides in late May to early June to control annual weeds in the lawn, such as crabgrass and spurge.

Yard and Garden Pests

  • Monitor vegetables and herbs for earwig damage.
  • Protect ash trees with a registered chemical to prevent lilac/ash borer damage.
  • Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, check out Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Treat apples for powdery mildew when leaves are emerging (at 1/2 inch green) until early June.
  • Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May through early June. For specific timing, visit Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Control the Western cherry fruit fly when fruit changes from straw color to pink to avoid maggots in cherries.
  • Control the peach twig borer in peaches, nectarines and apricot trees. For specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects. In areas previously damaged, consider a preventative (systemic) insecticide.
  • Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code “Grow5” at checkout to get $5 off.
  • Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website

How to Prioritize Home Irrigation During a Drought

Due to drought conditions throughout the state, Governor Spencer Cox recently issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for Utah. To date, 100% of Utah is in the moderate drought category, and 90% of the state is experiencing extreme drought.

To help home and business owners conserve water in the landscape, experts suggest waiting until daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70s before irrigating. Once it’s time to irrigate, consider these tips to help prioritize which plants to water first.

* Priority #1, Trees – Trees provide shade, help cool your home and produce oxygen. They are the most valuable plants in your landscape and should be at the top of your priority list for irrigation.

* Priority #2, Shrubs – Shrubs in your landscape filter dust and pollution from the air and help dampen traffic noise. They should be your second priority for irrigation. 

* Priority #3, Perennials – Over time, perennial plant roots help improve the soil in your landscape. Irrigate them after trees and shrubs.

* Priority #4, Annuals – Annuals provide pollen for bees and other pollinators as well as food for hummingbirds.  They also add bright colors and interest to your landscape and should be your fourth priority for irrigation this year.

* Priority #5, Turfgrass – Of all the plants in your landscape, grasses are the toughest. They will enter dormancy during times of drought and high temperatures and recover when conditions improve. Grasses should be your lowest priority for irrigation during drought conditions.

USU Extension provides multiple resources to assist home and business owners, agricultural producers and others with water conservation. A new website with drought-related information can be found at Also available is the Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping website at, which contains specific information on water-wise and native plants, sustainable turfgrass research, urban water conservation, and water use and drought. To find out how often to irrigate in your area, visit and also follow the USU CWEL Facebook and Instagram pages, @waterwiselandscaping.

By: Kelly Kopp, Utah State University Extension Water Conservation and Turfgrass Specialist,

Seven Tips for Container Gardens that Thrill, Fill and Spill

Container gardening has become popular as planting areas in the landscape have become smaller. Some containers are used to grow vegetables or specimen shrubs, while others display a beautiful splash of color. For thrilling container gardens, consider these tips.

          • Containers need large enough drainage holes in the bottom to prevent soil from clogging the hole while still promoting proper drainage. If the drainage hole is too large, soil will leak through the bottom each time the container is watered. Prevent this problem by placing a large rock or solid object over the hole. This allows water to drain around it and keeps the soil in place.

         • Planters must be large enough to accommodate the root system of the plants. Often, annuals or vegetable plants are crammed into a small planter, and then gardeners wonder why the plants stay small or need excessive amounts of water. As a general rule, any pot 8 inches or smaller in diameter will only hold small plants. Most annual or perennial containers should be a minimum of 8 to 10 inches in diameter, and larger pots are more desirable. After all, the goal of having annuals is to make a large splash of color in the landscape, not a dribble.

         • There is an art to designing annual containers, often referred to as thrill, fill and spill.  This refers to the principle of placing an upright plant in the center of the container that “thrills” the eye and draws attention. Next, the planter is “filled” with an accenting color and finally one or two plants are placed to “spill” over the sides to soften the appearance and extend the color.

         • The spike dracaena is commonly used as a center “thrill” for planters; however, many other plants work equally well to catch the eye. Some include red fountain grass, snapdragons, geraniums, salvia, coleus and dahlias. These plants reach a height of 8 inches or more and stand out in a crowd of annuals. 

         • There are a number of good choices for “filling” a container with annuals. The most important consideration is to select colors and flowers you like. Next, keep in mind that they should not overpower the plant used to “thrill” nor hide the plants that “spill.” Osteospermum, million bells, bidden, some zinnias and impatiens work well.  

         • For plants that “spill,” there is the black-eyed Susan vine, wave petunias, sweet potato vine, licorice plant, alyssum and lobelia. Some of these plants also climb, which can be both a plus and a problem when they attempt to take over the basket or move up a post. For this reason, flower baskets should be pruned as needed.  

         • A critical component in the container is the soil. It should hold water, but also drain. A number of good potting soils are available at local nurseries and garden centers. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for when purchasing potting soil. Along with the proper soil, it is important to provide the plants with sufficient fertilizer. Normally this means either applying a slow-release fertilizer at planting time or using a water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks.

Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code “Grow5” at checkout to get $5 off.

Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website

By: Jerry Goodspeed, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, 435-919-1276,