Chionodoxa (kion-o-DOX-ah), also known as glory-of-the-snow, are among the first to bloom.

If you’re a raised bed gardener, chances are your beds are empty for a large portion of the year: from the end of harvest through the winter.

What if you could squeeze in another crop? Consider fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs.

At the front of our building, we have a set of raised beds and planters, which are filled with pollinator-friendly annuals all summer. By the end of October, frost kills the annuals and we empty the beds for winter. Sometimes, we cover crop with winter rye.

Lay out bulbs before planting

At planting time, Use more bulbs than would seem necessary. You’ll be glad you did.

Cat Scat Mats

Cat Scat Mats protect bulbs in a planter

Hardware cloth

Hardware cloth comes in rolls. Make sure you have a heavy-duty snips that can cut the wire to fit your beds.

Keep critters out

Last fall, I planted a few dozen bulbs in the beds and planters. I was worried about rodents, so I covered the soil surface with a layer of metal “hardware cloth” to keep the bulbs safe. In the planters, I used pieces of Cat Scat Mat. It’s easy to cut to fit with a pair of scissors. To keep the beds and planters neat, I covered the mats and hardware cloth with a 2-inch layer of potting soil, enriched with a few scoops of compost.

Spring arrives

Spring is here and the bulbs are blooming on schedule, with no evidence of rodent damage. The mats and hardware cloth don’t hinder the emerging bulbs—the emerging stems grow through the gaps.

After the bulbs are done blooming

Once the bulbs have finished their display, I’ll pull them out and compost the lot. To some, it might seem a bit wasteful, but I treat them as annuals. Because my beds are small (3×3), I chose bulbs to fit the scale: crocus, miniature irises, chionodoxa and miniature daffodils. Of course, I couldn’t resist a few big, glorious tulips, which I got from Longfield Gardens. Next fall, I’ll plant something different.

The hardware cloth and Cat Scat Mats will come out as well, followed by a recharge to make the soil fertile for the new season’s crops.

David Grist, Gardener’s Supply

Hardware cloth in raised bed

Bulbs are planted, topped with soil and hardware cloth.

Spring-blooming bulbs in raised beds

Spring has arrived, and so have the bulbs.