The Bay Gardener
By Dr. Frank Gouin
Time to Pot Spring Bulbs
A little work now will yield a house-full of blooms
It’s five long months until Easter, but planting now will get you set for spring come April. Of course, you can wait and buy potted tulips, narcissus and hyacinths at flower markets and garden centers. Or you can force your own blossoms for Easter by planting bulbs in pots now.
Typically, bulbs are forced using six-inch pots or pans. Place one- to one-and-a-half-inches of potting soil in the bottom of the pot. If it’s tulips you crave, place the bulbs along the inside walls of the pot with the flat side of the bulb against the wall of the pot, placed shoulder to shoulder. If you’re planting in an eight- or 10-inch pot or pan, place two bulbs in the middle of the pot with the round side of the bulbs facing each other. The bulbs in the center of the pot will improve the appearance of the planter when it flowers.
Next, fill in the pot with potting soil and drench the planted bulbs with water, making sure that the container drains excess liquid. Such a heavy watering washes potting soil into the voids between the bulbs to fill in air pockets.
After the water has drained, add potting soil if needed. Pack the pots tightly together outside on the ground either against the foundation of a house or garage. Or place the pots in a deep cold frame in the garden.
Cover the planted bulbs with either a double layer of pullet wire or a single layer of the mesh used for window screens to keep out rodents. Then, cover the wire mesh with a sheet of plastic to retain moisture in the potting soil. Protect the bulbs from rapid freezing and thawing by covering the pots with lots of leaves, hay, straw or several layers of old rugs.
When forcing spring flowering bulbs in pots, bulbs must cool slowly and then stay cool. During the cooling, the bulbs will produce an abundance of roots while the flower bud within the bulb gets cold enough to break dormancy next spring, bursting into bloom.
At about Ash Wednesday, bring your pots into a warm room. As the foliage sprouts, place the pots in direct sunlight and water them as needed, but add no fertilizer.
You’ll have a housefull of blooms to bring the outdoors inside.
Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.