Growing outside the natural habitat

Sun, 10 Nov 2002 18:52:15 PST
To Lauw de Jager -------

Jim raised all his commercial bulbs, always from seed, in free-standing
redwood boxes he built himself, or in large plastic bins with numerous small
holes drilled in their bottoms - all at least 8 inches deep; and all covered
with 1-inch "chicken wire" to keep the gophers out. His growing medium was
pretty standard - 1/2 quality potting soil, 1/8 horticultural sand, 1/8
vermiculite, 1/8 perlite, and 1/8 peat moss. Each batch received a generous
handful of bone meal as well. He fertilized routinely every 2 to 3 weeks
with half-strength Miracle-Grow during a species' growing season; and he
dried back each species when its leaves began to yellow. Bubls that were
inclined to resent too much heat received a thin dressing of light-colored
gravel. Bins and boxes of the most tender bulbs were sunk part-way into a
large gravel bed for protection. All were grown outside, on a
northeast-facing, gentle-to-moderate slope, with large trees to the west to
protect them from the worst of the hot afternoon sun. Though we averaged 10
to 20 nights of frost each winter, the slope itself provided some
protection, as the cold air drained downhill and pooled well below our
property. In fact, after a night of frost, we could see exactly how the cold
air had flower downhill over and beyond our property, from the frost
patterns. In the 17 years we lived there, there was only one hard freeze,
with 5 nights in a rown down to 17 degrees F. and daytime temperatures never
above freezing. Jim lost a fair number of bulbs in the process, but most of
them survived.

The bulbs he grew "for pleasure" were grown in raised beds on the hillside,
12 to 24 inches deep, lined with 1/2-inch hardware cloth; he had discovered
that the gophers could squeeze through chicken wire bottoms, even though
they never seemed to climb through the chicken wire box and bin covers he
used. Otherwise, "pleasure" bulbs received pretty much the same treatment as
his commercial bulbs.

Let me know if you have more questions ---------- Georgie Robinett

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