THE BULBS ARE COMING!
Hello Fellow Earthlings, and welcome to one of the most exciting times of
the year for gardeners. The Bulbs are Coming! Soon there will be an
abundance of new fall bulbs in garden centers, nurseries, and home center
garden shops for you to drool over (I always do). This discussion will be
on how to prepare a site for those little gas tanks of color before you
actually plant them. This way, when you do bring them home, a healthy plot
will be waiting for them. But first a little background on bulbs.
A very large group of plants that store energy in fleshy capsules during
their dormant period are referred to as bulbs. Only a few of these plants
are true bulbs. Tulips, Lilies, Onions, Amaryllis, and Daffodils are some
true bulbs. Gladiolus and Watsonia are classified as corms. Begonias,
Ranunculus and Dahlias are classified as tubers. All of these plants store
energy in a fleshy gas tank that allows them to live during harsh weather.
This storage organ is commonly called a bulb. Enough science, let's
actually talk about growing them.
Different types of bulbs require different methods of care. Some bulbs like
tulips, hyacinths, and crocus may actually require that you refrigerate
(not freeze) them for several weeks before planting. This is to stimulate a
true dormancy response from the plant. Here in Southern California we are
forced to perform this yearly ritual of digging and chilling our bulbs if
we want to have these types of bulbs in our gardens. This is because the
soil does not get cold enough during our mild winters to send the plant
into dormancy. Other bulbs like narcissus, some daffodils, freesias,
gladiolus, and watsonia will just grow and grow with little or no effort on
A little food in the spring and once again in the early summer,
and they are totally happy. Other bulbs require that we dig them and store
them in a cool, dry, dark place until it is time to set them out to grow.
Tuberous begonias are this type of bulb. Bulbs that are actually rhizomes
like bearded iris are another plant and forget type. The one thing all of
these plants have in common is that they really appreciate it when a
gardener takes the time to prepare a healthy bedding area where they are to
be planted. I have a tried and true formula for site preparation when
considering bulbs in our gardens. It has worked for me for years and is
very simple to do. So let's do it!
First I think about which bulbs I will be putting in the garden and make
sure that they will get the best sun exposure I can provide them with my
site conditions. I then lightly cultivate the soil in the area where the
bulbs will be planted. I then put out a little mixture of minerals and
nutrients for them so the soil has a chance to digest these supplements
before I actually set out the bulbs. This proactive approach to bulb
gardening has been in practice for centuries in Europe and still works
The last thing I do is apply what?, yup, you got it, MULCH! A three
to six inch layer of good organic compost as mulch over the soil and the
minerals will loosen the soil. It will also add essential organic matter,
and increase the availability of future nutrition to the bulbs by
activating a legion of beneficial microorganisms that process these
ingredients into plant foods. My favorite thing about this exercise is that
when I do bring the bulbs home I'm not wrestling with the soil to dig
holes. This bed preparation method really makes the hardest soil easy to
work in within just a few weeks. My little mineral mix consists of the
1 part cottonseed meal
1 part alfalfa meal
1 part kelp meal
1 part Kelzyme
1 part soft rock phosphate
I put this mix down at a rate of five to seven pounds per 50 square feet of
bulb garden and then add my mulch. I used to mix this stuff myself until I
found it already mixed by a company called Organic Resources. I use their
stuff now and have been so pleased with it that I lent my name to their
product line. You can reach them by calling Mr. Douglas Gore at
760.634.1066. It is really inexpensive and it includes Kelzyme, my second
favorite gardening helper next to mulch. By using this mixture you will
ensure that your bulbs will be happy and healthy when they emerge in the
spring to shower you with color. This mix and the mulch will help your soil
quality as well for future plantings. The really great part is that you
only need to apply it once a year. I like that.
Next time we will be discussing what seeds to choose for that cool season
vegetable garden and how to grow some veggies in the landscape for
ornamental and (of course) for munching on. See you in the Garden!
Got questions? Fax the Doc at 760.632.8175 or Email him: email
Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications.
Look for Don's book Natural Gardening A-Z from Hay House at bookstores everywhere and at all online booksellers and check out Don's columns in Hearst's Healthy Living Magazine coming soon.
Enjoy some of Dr. Curly's past gardening articles from our growers archive.
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