What follows bulbs

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Mon, 16 Aug 2004 10:16:18 PDT
Rodger wrote,
>At the 1991 Western Winter Study weekend, Don Elick recommended that
>bulbs not be overplanted with *anything*. In his opinion, over-
>planting had two drawbacks: one, it shaded the soil, thus preventing
>the bulbs from getting the warmth they need in summer to properly
>ripen; and, two, no matter what you planted, it would compete with
>the bulbs for nutrients, thereby weakening them.
>To this day I remain uncertain if this is generally applicable
>advice, or advice applicable only to similar climates. But as he is
>(was?) a very successful grower of Mediterranean bulbs in a climate
>not especially suited to them, I think his opinion is worth

This seems counterintuitive to me, because most of the bulbs we grow, 
including "Mediterranean" ones and the Central Asians, grow naturally among 
other vegetation such as grasses and drought-tolerant shrubs, or in light 
woodland. The same is true of western American bulbs. Those that don't grow 
in taller vegetation often grow in rocky situations, such as deep scree, 
where the soil remains cool and even moist through a long summer drought. 
Those that grow in pure bare sand typically plunge to a great depth.

In fact, as I have written before, dormant bulbs normally reside at such a 
depth that the soil temperature is not particularly high anyway. There's a 
lot of R-factor (insulation rating) in a foot of dirt.

Thus, I think Elick's recommendation does not apply to growing bulbs in 
western North America, and it also seems counterintuitive for wet=summer 
areas, since the overplanting would draw moisture from the soil. As for 
"competing" for nutrients, I was proposing annual plants that would be 
through when the bulbs begin their growth cycle; and anyway, that's what we 
have fertilizer for.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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