wintering-over Spring bulbs in pots

Gene Mirro
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 14:15:44 PST
There are several solutions.  One is to prepare the planting bed while the weather is nice, and then throw black plastic over it.  So the soil stays workable, especially if it's on a raised bed and you've worked some sand into it.

Or you could dig some trenches while the soil is dry, and pile the soil nearby.  Then cover the area with black plastic.  Then plant the bulbs and pull the soil over them.  This is very fast and easy.  You can plant the bulbs thickly, so they don't take up much room.  Don't forget to label.  Then move them to their final position next summer.

If you have to plant them in pots, the easiest thing is probably to make an above-ground planting bed with pressure-treated 10x10s.  Pot the bulbs up and put them inside the wood frame, and then fill it up with bark, leaves, sand or dirt.  Try not to leave many air spaces, and make sure there is at least a couple of inches of fill above the rim of the pot.  If your winters are really cold, pile some bark on the outside of the frame also, and maybe even cover the whole thing with some bubble wrap or plastic film, to keep the wind out.

If you want to, you can let the bulbs grow in these pots next spring, but make sure to feed them with lime and NPK fertilizer, and make sure the frame is in a sunny place.  If you are going to do this, the pots should be at least one gallon, but bigger is better.  And don't let them dry out while they are growing.  But the bulbs will do much better in the garden.

If you grow Dutch bulbs in a greenhouse, it needs to be cool and well-ventilated.  Otherwise, the stems will be elongated and weak, and the leaves of the tulips will get Botrytis.

Pro-mix is a very expensive way to do this.  I grow Dutch bulbs in a mix of bark, sand, and garden soil, with some lime and bone meal mixed in.  They love it.  You could substitute perlite or pumice for the sand.

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