DENVER — As winter closes in, it becomes more difficult to plant bulbs in the ground. In addition, some gardeners face perennial problems of deer and rodents ruining their spring bulb display. And some people don't have any ground and garden on decks and balconies.

The answer is to plant bulbs in pots. Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths grow beautifully in pots. Use gallon or larger plastic pots. (In spring, these pots can be sucked into more attractive pots.) Fill the pots halfway with soil. It's fine to use soil from your patio pots. Plant five or six bulbs in each pot--pointed end up--and fill in the rest with more soil.

Now comes the tricky part. Bulbs need a cold winter; it's part of their life cycle. It's too cold, however, to just leave the potted bulbs outside. The cold attacking them from all sides will be far too much and will probably prove fatal.

So what's the answer? Find a place where they can get a good chilling but not a deep freeze. I use two methods. Some pots are stored in a very cool, unheated basement room. Others are placed in a trench in my vegetable garden and covered with compost. 

Other gardeners use methods that are available to them: crawl spaces, sheds, garages or window wells. The objective is to keep the bulbs very cool all winter. The ideal temperature is 35 degrees, although it can sink a bit below freezing. If it's too warm, the bulbs won't chill properly and will sprout prematurely.

Bulbs need 12 to 16 weeks of winter chill. After that, the new growth will start to emerge. At that point, bring them out into the sunshine on your patio or deck. They'll start to bloom in two or three weeks. They will be relatively safe from critters and they can be more easily protected from late snowstorms. 

Combined with pansies, stock, dianthus, and ornamental kale, you'll have a beautiful bulb display in late April and May. 

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