Don’t wait until too long or you may miss out.

It's a scorching 93 degrees as I sit here today with weeks of hot weather yet to arrive. Thus, you'll forgive me if I'm not contemplating my spring garden with every waking thought. I do have to drink beer, you know. Neglecting spring entirely would be a sorry lapse of judgment, though, if future sweeps of flowering tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and snowflakes are on the menu. True, the time to plant bulbs is later. But the time to order them is now.

Why? Because ordering bulbs through the mail is a first-come, first-serve operation. The earlier you order, the better your chances of procuring the exact varieties and numbers you want. Wait until October to order and those varieties may either be sold out or bottom-of-the-barrel quality.

Pick Your Own Tulips
Credit: Alison Miksch

Expect your bulbs to arrive in early fall. Not ready to plant just yet? Store your bulbs in the crisper of a refrigerator (NOT the freezer) until you are. Make sure the fridge doesn't contain ripening fruit, because the fruit will release ethylene gas that harms bulbs. Many types of bulbs will benefit from the extra chilling, especially in mild-winter climates like the South's. My favorite time to plant is November.

Undoubtedly, some of you will forget the bulbs are in the fridge and leave them there until you discover them next February. Are they still worth planting then? Yes, although the show might not be quite as good. But what the heck, you've already paid for them, so why not give it a shot? Besides, most bulbs come up for decades, so you won't have lost much.

The following are mail-order suppliers I highly recommend: