FLOWER BULBS FERTLIZER ,THE SOIL AND BULB FORCING
I could always tell when it was time to plant the flower bulbs in late spring,during my childhood,because my mom would arrive in the garden with her glad bulbs so carefully stored over the winter months. She would plant,as I recall,at least a hundred of these in the garden. As a child my thoughts were golly gee,a child expression not often recited any more,this looks like a lot of work to me. It was all that digging and planting of those flower bulbs that got to me. However I would chance to remark as they bloomed how pretty they appeared in our garden. This was a big statement coming from a kid of my tender years!
I later learned in life,as my passion for gardening grew,that planting flower bulbs was a rewarding chore. There are,in my estimation,few plants that will reap the pleasure from planting then a large grouping of bulbs. Hey this looked like a lot of work,when I was a kid,but planting bulbs is relatively easy to perform regardless of what type of bulb you are planting in your garden.Now that I have gotten all that off of my chest lets get on with the total information system about all things flower bulbs.go to spring bulbs for up to date information - on types of bulbs that can be planted and return to here
go to summer bulbs for up to date information - on types of bulbs that can be planted and return to here
THERE ARE TWO RUDIMENTARY LAWS THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED IN BULB PLANTING
The flower bulb must be planted with the pointy end up. This location is where the leaves emerge from the bulb. If you do make the mistake of planting the bulb upside down, it will still come up. However you are giving the plant an unnecessary stress factor. It could in fact end in a less showy result of flowers come bloom time. The worst possible ending is that you kill the plant.
The second law is to plant your bulbs 2-2 1/2 times deeper than the bulb is sized. For example,suppose your bulb is a small 1 inch bulb,like maybe a crocus,you would put it down in the soil 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. If your bulb is in the range of a 3 inch size,you will need to put the bulb into the soil at a depth of 6 to 7 1/2 inches deep. These are recommended depths and they work for me. I know in other literature you will find conflicting depths but I believe to be on the safe side you should follow this law.
There is of course another factor about flower bulbs I should mention here. Flat bulbs such as glads should be planted with their flat side facing up. There are some bulbs that have appendages or roots and these roots should be facing down. If you cannot determine by examination,than plant them sideways.
If you follow this basic information provided above,you will be rewarded with a great display of flowers. There are other things that could help improve your flower bulb display. Here is a trick I came across a few years ago. You may want to drop just a touch of bulb food into the hole prior to inserting your bulb. This will provide your bulbs with a little more push when emerging from the soil.
One thing you must do is to provide a thin layer of soil between the bulb and the fertilizer.This is to ensure that your bulb does not contract fertilizer burn. You may want to cover your bulbs with either some leaves or a few inches of mulch. This could prevent the bulbs from heaving in those areas with a cold winter. The planting of bulbs in the Spring should always be accompanied by a thorough watering.
FLOWER BULBS AND THE SOIL
If you want your dahlias to look like this and you have purchased the best bulbs in the world and given them the proper light,water and fertilizer. You also kept a wary eye out for rodents that could destroy your beautiful flowering bulbs. All of this will be to no avail if your garden has the improper environment in which to help your plants to grow and nourish.
Ok wise guy what constitues a good garden of soil? I was just about to enlighten you on that very subject. The very best soil for your flower bulbs is a rich humus and sandy loam soil. This is not to say that the bulbs will not florish in clay or heavy clay soil this is just the best the other is a little more work. The soil should be from neutral to a tinge acidic like ph between 5.5 and 7.3. Now you say how am I going to know all this stuff? Have your soil tested or perform the operation yourself. I think I have mentioned this before that your local garden center has soil testing kits with very easy instructions to follow. You can check with your local extension service as they might test your soil for free or at the very least charge you a small fee.
Now we have the quality of your soil identified. You must take action to amend your soil to bring it into compliance with the flower bulbs about to be planted.
- Soil is too acid add lime
- soil is to alkaline add sulphur
- soil is too clay heavy mix in some sand to break it up
- soil is too sandy add humus,compost,manure anything for better water retention
If your extensions service report states that the soil is low in nutrients,humus can assit in this as well. You may also add fertilizer in lieu of humus but do so at your own peril. You risk over fertilizing your bulbs and burning them in the process. Now that you have created a good soil balance,till the garden area to aid in throughly mixing your additives. It is all done! Now plant your favorite flower bulbs and stand back for the blooming show of your life! A little too enthusiastic? I THINK not.
See Spring Bulbs for the how to plant the most popular bulbs
FERTILIZING YOUR FLOWER BULBS
The mystery of it all the deep dark secret to the production of striking flowers year followed by year is non other than Mr. fertilizer. The normal gardening of other species of plants always get their share of this necessary additive. The same rules do not seem to apply to the poor lowly bulb and the same loving attention seems to elude their very existence. I think the assumption being that these hardy bulbs return year after year with little or no attention. They can survive without attention or can they?Have you ever noticed that in some cases that fewer and fewer of those precious bulbs begin to appear each season. It is not a rodent problem and certainly is not from fertilizer burn. A little extra attention and you would have had striking flowers!
Lets see what we could do about that. You must fertilize the bulbs at least twice a year to improve your results. At the beginning of spring add some fertilizer before the flowering begins and than fertilize once again in the fall after the first frost has appeared in your climate. Bulbs require a little time to absorb the fertilizer so this ensures that in the spring the fertilizer will be present after the bulbs have bloomed to acquire the necessary nutrients for the following spring. The fall fertilizing enables the flower bulb to have nutrients to assist the bulb when it begins to shoot the small green foilage which will become your spring flower and larger foilage.
It is your choice you can purchase a chemical fertilizer or you can purchase a special bulb fertilizer. This is a specialized bulb fertilizer and as such commands a better buck. This could get expensive if you have a large area to cover or would you like to save a little money. Just make sure that fertilizer you do purchase has these three nutrients:
The nitrogen provides for good healthy foliage and assists in the collection of energy from the sun. The potash will enable the bulb to resist disease and give them a longer life. The last but not least is the phosphorus which is in fact the most important ingredient. This provides the push for the bulbs to multiply and produce larger and more brillant colors. When you purchase your phosphorus make sure you buy it with the highest number. The phosphorus number is in the one in the middle like 5-10-5.
There is the use of compost which works as well and will also condition the soil. It may be worth your while to add some bone meal to the compost and give your phosphorus an extra push. This,I assure you,is time well spent and you will be thrilled with the vibrant display of flowers year after year.
GROWING FLOWER BULBS IN WARMER CLIMATES
I am not going to let out the gardeners in warmer climates. There can be success in warmer climates with both tulips and spring bulbs. In zones 9&10 a great deal of success can be obtained if the bulbs are regarded as annuals. The bulbs in a mild winter climate are put in the soil at the coolest point of the year which could be either December or January.
The magic to flower bulbs such as tulips,crocus,and hyacinths is giving them the chill remedy to trick them into believing they just experienced a cold winter in your garden soil. This can be accomplished through the use of your refrigator. This,however,could be annoying to your spouse finding bulbs sitting behind or in front of his or her favorite something in the fridge. It would be a better idea to use an old or spare refrigerator for this gardening experience. If you do not possess one look around your area,I am sure you could purchase one cheaply if you are really interested in pursing this avenue of gardening.
There is an exception to every hard and fast rule. The narcissi and daffodil families are not required to go through this chilling period. Just find yourself a cool and dry place to store these bulbs until you are ready to place them in your garden.
Grab this swicki from eurekster.com
See Spring bulbs for expert advice on planting Spring bulbs
FLOWER BULBS IN STORAGE
The best picks for storing your flower bulbs are paper bags,the mesh bulb bag that accompanied your bulbs,or those vegetable bags with holes. In any case make sure that whatever you use is ventilated. The refigerator temp for this endeavor should be between 40 degrees F and 45 degrees f with a minimum of six to eight weeks of storage.There is no need to be concerned if you have procured the bulbs earlier in the year continue to chill them. This can be done for 12-16 weeks if required or until the time has arrived to put them in your garden.
At the risk of too much warmth,I would plant the bulbs maybe six to eight inches in the soil and provide a 2 inch layer of mulch to help with the mositure retention and keeping the bulbs as cool as possible. By all means make sure you water the planted area throughly and depending on the dryness of the area frequent watering maybe required.
One last thing about flower bulbs in storage. Please remove any fruit in the refrigerator particulary apples. The gas given off by the ripe fruit will result in death to the flower in your bulbs. Could I put it more bluntly than that!
go to summer bulbs for up to date information - on types of bulbs that can be planted and return to here
FLOWER BULBS AND THE ART OF FORCING
Potting And Cooling Chart For Hardy Bulbs
|Types of Bulbs||Potting Depth||Cold,dark period||Cool,light period|
| Crocus||1 inch deep||10-12 weeks||2-3weeks|
| Hyacinth||tops of bulbs out||12-15 weeks||2-3 weeks|
| Narcissus(Hardy)||1 inch deep||12-15 weeks||2-4 weeks|
| Tulip||Tops of Bulbs Out||14-16 weeks||2-4 weeks|
| Iris||one-half inch deep||12-15 weeks||2-3 weeks|
| Scilla||1 inch deep||10-12 weeks||2-4 weeks|
| Puschkina||1 inch deep||10-12 weeks||2-3 weeks|
It is always a good idea to have a chart. Here is one that gives the simple information of how to plant your most popular flower bulbs for forcing. Now if you wisely decide not to force bulbs for the holidays then you can start in October with your full attention on preparing for bulb forcing. Besides bulbs,you will need pots with good drainage holes,labels,several sharpened pencils,no we are not going to plant the pencils,gallon sized clear plastic bags,new potting soil,sand,pebbles,a calendar,and water.
Now you can go out and purchase the finest clay pots for your flower bulb forcing and of course they are beautiful with nice designs and expensive. Plastic pots are affordable and if you run into some problems,I would hate to see a clay pot hurdled across the room. Plastic pots don't dry out as fast as terra-cotta pots and they are not as aesthetically charming in appearance but I am endeavoring to save you some money here.
It always makes good sense to start with new potting soil. However do not purchase potting soil with fertilizer for force bulbs because forced bulbs are finished and gone before a requirement for fertilizer even exists. It would be wise,if you can,to purchase premoistened soil because it is faster and less messy if you have less then an ideal area to perform this potting up as they say.
It would be a good idea to add sand to the bulb-potting soil. Sand enables the soil to drain better and these bulbs will require quick draining. The sand can also help prevent a crust which sometimes forms on the top of the pot enabling the water to roll right off. The proportions would be three measures of soil to one measure of sand.Pour this into your pot as a means of measure and continue to mix until you have enough for one or many pots.
THE LARGE WOODEN SPOON IS HANDY
A large wooden spoon is an excellent facilitator in mixing the soil. When you squeeze a handful of soil and the water gushes out then you are too wet and will require more soil. You may add more water if you have areas of dry patches and when you open your fist the mixture should crumble apart,if not,more sand is required. Before permanently adding the soil to the pot,add a layer of gravel and place one overweight fat pebble over the drain hole to prevent soil-mix from pouring out through the hole.
As the soil is added to the pot over the gravel,firm it with your big wooden spoon so that roots from your bulbs will have something to grab. The only thing I caution here is not to add soil all the way to the top you will need room for your bulbs.In the chart above,for example,if you are ready to pot crocuses stop adding soil when your two inches from the top.
Place only one type of flower bulb in each pot. These bulbs have different flowering times and you will not end up with a beautiful mixture of flowers.Arrange the bulbs as close as possible to each other without touching. Ignore the spacing instructions that have accompanied your bulbs,these are not to be planted outdoors. If you are going to pot more than one variety of bulb,make sure you use your labels so it is easy to identify what you have planted. It would be wise to note the potting date and the day for removing them from their cold spot. It would be better to use a calendar and by following the chart know when to move them from cycle to cycle.
HERE IS A GOOD RULE OF THUMB
An old fashion rule of thumb for chilling includes three different temperatures. The extended period at 40 degrees for root development,a shorter period at 50 degrees to develop foliage,and then temps around 60 degrees to ensure maximum flower production.The trick is to find the perfect cold spot and you may need to purchase a thermometer to gauge your temperature. Good spots,and one I have used,is a spare refigerator but never store bulbs with fruit because your fruit will be fine but the gas from the fruit will indeed rot your bulbs. A cold frame is excellent as long as deep snow does not freeze them shut or a place in your garage where temperatures donot go below freezing. You can pack the pots in cardboard boxes filled with those plastic peanuts or old styrofoam but donot stack your pots on each other because some bulbs send up sprouts that will be damaged by the weight of the pots.
This is about all the room we have here but this will get you started. There will be more information on the web site by the end of the month in what to watch for,water frequency,and placement. Happy forcing!
YOUR NOT SO FRIENDLY FOREST FRIENDS
Do you recognize these little friendly creatures? They are so so cute but are among the most destructive creatures in a gardener's flowering bulbs. They can make your bulbs disappear in short order leaving you with that what happened look in spring and fall when beautiful flowers were suppose to arrive.
These creatures spend a lot of their waking hours foraging for and storing food for the coming winter season. Squirrels,in particular,just bury their food in many different locations and often times have no clue as to the location of this deletable dinner. This requires them to utlize their smelling instincts to search and find their stored food stocks. In this instance the chipmunk is certainly more clever. These little guys will search for food to store in one place and the easiest for them is to find a squirrel cache that has been lost to the squirrel.
Here is how I think your flower bulbs are perceived by these creatures. They look at it as a FREE lunch compliments of your hard gardening work. There are a number of things that can be done here to interrupt the raiding of your garden. I have used bloodmeal in the bulb cavity and then applied directly to the entire planting area of bulbs. However I found that both creatures are very adaptable and can acquire a liking for the blood meal itself. Now you say doesn't that beat all! Now they not only are racing off with my bulbs but also enjoying a tasty treat of bloodmeal.
The use of cayenne pepper is another avenue to explore. It certainly works better than the bloodmeal idea but alas only a short term solution. The pepper begins to lose its potency and washes away over a very small period of time. This requires the gardener to stay on alert and replenish the supply especially after a particularly heavy rainfall.
THE CAGING OF BULBS IS ANOTHER SOLUTION
There are commerically available bulb cages that can be purchased to house your buried bulbs. You can also fashion your own out of chicken wire. The logistics of this would be to put your bulbs in a prepared hole large enough to hold them all unless your involved in some sort of garden design which could require more than one cage. Then you simply turn the basket or cage upside down and and fill the hole. This procedure works the best with smaller bulbs saving you the worry that the foliage will get caught on the wire.
Now what I have effectively done with my larger flower bulbs was to bury the bulbs and cover the ground surface with a piece of chicken wire. I have used a piece of lattice just lying around from construction on my porch and it works as well. You do have to remember to remove this cover in the spring so as not to block the growth of your bulbs foilage. It might also be wise to anchor the cover down. I simply used rocks to weight the edges. I certainly have enough rocks to supply the entire neighborhood.
INTERPLANTING OF FLOWER BULBS IS ANOTHER METHOD
You can interplant with daffodils or crown imperial bulbs these are found repugnant to both squirrels and chipmunks. If these are planted scattered among your tulips,there is a good chance that the little critters will not recognize the smell of its desired food.
There also some commerical repellents that claim to chase the squirrel and chipmunks away from your garden. I would be wary of the use of predator urine as you might attract something you do not want. These work the same as the bloodmeal and cayenne by having to replenish the repellent every two weeks. This can become expensive.
I think after all this analysis I would choose either the cage method or the interplanting method. These methods seem a lot less labor intensive.
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