Rain at last??/When to start watering

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sat, 16 Oct 2004 09:02:49 PDT
Mary Sue wrote,
"Last week we had a number of days of very hot weather and it looks like my 
Oxalis ambigua which was looking so nice has died and some of the 
Lachenalias that were just coming up have shriveled leaves. I'm wondering 
if either will recover. I had watered some of my dormant containers, but 
not all. Anyone else want to update us on their experiences?

>Finally does anyone have any good ideas about the best way to water 
>dormant pots that are completely dry? I find the water goes right through 
>them, around the sides."

My climate is similar to Mary Sue's in summer but colder and wetter in 
winter than where she lives. On the principle that bulbs adapted to dry 
summers should not be hot and wet at the same time, I wait until an 
extended cool period to begin fall watering. This year that happened 
earlier than usual, so I waited a little longer, until late September. 
HOWEVER, I have certain parts of the collection that are never allowed to 
become totally dry, and all but the real desert Fritillarias and almost all 
the Narcissus species are in these sections. A lot of crocuses do better 
there also. I don't soak these sections, I just wave a hose over them every 
10 days or so. I also have a coverable raised bed where I put "tough" bulbs 
that can take anything western Oregon can throw at them, except for really 
severe wet freezes (they're covered late November through February).

It's true that once you start the bulbs growing, you should not let them 
desiccate. This is especially crucial with Crocus.

Note that all my potted bulbs are plunged to the rim in sand, in clay or 
mesh pots, whereas Mary Sue has quite a few in solid plastic pots that 
aren't plunged. I've never had a problem rehydrating the dry soil because 
it's so gritty (1/4 pumice, 1/4 gritty clay topsoil, 1/2 sharp coarse 
sand). If a pot does dry out badly, something that often happens when I 
have delayed planting something obtained from another grower, I drop it in 
a bucket filled with enough water that the pot can sink almost to its rim. 
Even nasty soil mixes full of peat and bark will soak up in 20 minutes or 
so. Such mixes are also likely to contain perlite, which will float off 
under such treatment and cause a disposal problem.

I have to admit that the potting soil I make at home is quite heavy, and I 
understand why commercial growers and some home gardeners use lightweight 
components such as peat, perlite, and bark, but I'll stick with my mixture 
until I can no longer lift it. (Then I can take up orchid growing....)

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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