Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Planting Bulbs part two

Forcing Bulbs

Planting bulbs for forcing is so easy and you’ll have fresh flowers in your home by February or March.

1) Select a pot, large enough to plant the bulbs. Traditional bulb pots tend to be shallow and wide but you could plant them in any container, making sure the container has good drainage. Plant the bulbs, in whatever combination you could have all of one type or a combination of many. I find a combination of Tulips, Daffodils and Grape Hyacinths are very effective. Add a good potting soil until the container is about 3/4 full. Moisten with water, but keep the soil loose, not compacted.

2) Taking care not to pack the soil down, place each bulb into the soil with the pointed end up and the bulb’s flattened side against the wall of the pot so when the first leaves emerge they will grow over the edge of the pot, for an attractive appearance. If you use Grape Hyacinths, place them on the outer edge and higher than the depth of the Tulips and/or Daffodils. 

3) Sprinkle more potting mix over the bulbs, until the main body of the bulbs is buried about 1/2 inch below the surface. The bulbs tip will be just peeking out of the soil. Place the bulbs close but not touching each other. The bulbs should be watered immediately upon planting and thereafter the soil should never be allowed to dry out. I have found when I place mine in the refrigerator, I really don’t water them again until they are brought out to flower.

4) When finished planting, place the pot in a plastic bag, tie the top in a knot and that’s all it takes. Place the pot in a refrigerator or other cool, dark place with temperatures of 32F to 45F degrees. A basement, garage or cool attic or a cold frame, if you have one, will work. After 12 weeks and weekly thereafter, check the pot and when the roots protrude through the drain holes and shoots emerge, the time has come to place the pot in a moderately warm, bright spot to encourage growth. A temperature of 50F to 60F degrees is preferred for the first week or until the shoots and leaves begin to expand. Then, they can be moved to warmer locations such as the living room. Avoid direct sunlight.

5) Mark your calendar to remind yourself when the first pots can be removed from storage for forcing to begin. If planted October 1, bring the first pots into the home right after Christmas. If planting more than one pot, bring them in at weekly intervals for continuous blooms. On the average the bulbs will flower in three to four weeks. Closer to spring, they flower more rapidly. The cooler the location, the longer lasting the blooms will be. And don’t be intimidated by the process, it’s really easy...have fun with it.

The following fall, you can plant the bulbs you used into the garden. You always want to use fresh bulbs for forcing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Planting Bulbs

Fall is here...
...and that means it’s time to start planting bulbs. Here is a sampling of bulbs that will look wonderful in your spring garden. Although there are dozens of types of bulbs, some classified as corms, tubers and rhizomes, I’m only going to concentrate here on the most popular and easiest to grow bulbs. Also I would suggest before you pop that bulb in it’s hole that you toss in a small handful of a “Bulb Booster” which you can find at most hardware stores. It’s certainly not required but as the name implies, it’ll give your bulbs a boost in the spring. A helpful hint...if you want that "natural" look of a mass of any bulb...toss a handful in the air and plant where they fall.

Daffodils (Narcissus) - Always a favorite and as with most bulbs, they multiply year after year, which is called naturalizing. Deer don’t like Daffodils so that’s a plus too. The negatives of Daffodils to me, is their the spring after they finish blooming, their foliage lingers on for a long time and that can make your garden look messy. What I suggest is planting Daffodils near plants whose foliage will come up after the Daffodils have bloomed and hide the foliage... hostas, astilbes, ferns and peonies are great to hide the foliage. If that’s not possible, I suggest you draw up the foliage and tie it off, either with a rubber band, piece of string or by tying the foliage into a knot. It’s important, with any bulb, not to trim off their foliage before it ripens and dies...that foliage is key to what feeds and nourishes the bulb for the next season. Plant 6 to 7 inches deep pointed side up, 1 to 3 inches apart.

Tulips (Tulipa)- Also known as deer candy,  if deer are present in your yard, I don’t suggest Tulips, unless you spray because they LOVE them. I take a chance and plant some but closer to the house and in the back of a garden where it’s harder to reach. If you do plant Tulips, look for varieties that bloom at different times during the spring so you have a long lasting display. Plant 8 inches deep, pointed side up. Tulips can be thickly planted with no ill effect on bloom size and close spacing enhances their impact.

Allium (Flowering onion) - Allium are lovely in the spring garden, producing showy 2 to 12 inch in diameter flower clusters rising on a single stalk. Alliums are sun lovers and most critters avoid this group, so you can plant with no worries. Plant to a depth of 6 to 8 inches depending on size of bulb.

Crocus (Crocus) - Delicate bowls of color in an otherwise drab landscape, these are the heralds of spring, one of the first plants to bloom in the garden. They are a sure sign that spring is on the way. Technically these are corms not bulbs but don’t worry about that. Plant them 3 to 4 inches deep in small groups.

Snowdrops (Galanthus) - Along with Crocuses nothing is more anticipated than the appearance of the first Snowdrops. Sometimes fragrant, these appear to be tiny bells on a graceful arching grass-like stem. Perfect for naturalizing in both sunny and shady locations. Plant these 4 inches deep, they do best when left undisturbed to form large clumps. I love them at the base of a stone wall.

Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) - Best when used as an edging plant, these are one of my Crocuses, they are the staple for any spring garden. Small and compact, they thrive in sun or shade and tolerate practically any soil. Ideal partners with taller bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Most commonly, the color is in various shades of  blue, they are also available in white. I think nothing is more charming than a bunch of Grape Hyacinths in a small vase. Their grass-like foliage disappears during the summer and reappears in the fall, making them the perfect plant to mark where you’ve planted other bulbs. Plant the bulbs to a depth of 2 to 3 inches deep.

Reliable resources to order bulbs: